Happy visit.

There are some and I have just had one, so I thought I’d let you know.  One of the purposes of the dementia diaries is to encourage relatives to engage with people who have this disease.  Contact with those whose brains are not working within the parameters of normal can be challenging to say the least.  Part of the problem is that, for many years, the sufferer may look as they always have done until they speak and reveal their thought processes are not as they were.  Their utterances may prove challenging: they may talk nonsense, slip backwards in time and appear to be living in a different time frame, speak as if family members who died long ago are still alive.  As the disease progresses they may be verbally aggressive, may lie, may argue, make false accusations and so on and these are only the verbal challenging behaviours.  Physically they may behave in any inappropriate manner you can think of, from taking all their clothes off to hitting you with their walking stick.  They may exhibit various signs of emotional disturbance, crying for no apparent reason, being indignant with no stimulus, uttering profanities with no provocation.  And so on through most types of behaviour people are capable of exhibiting, all upsetting to onlookers, difficult to deal with, tricky to stop and tiring all the time.

And yet, even this far into the disease, which I calculate my mother has had at least six or seven years, there can be happy visits and nice days.  This of course is why it’s worth persevering with your difficult demented relative.  It is for them that you do it, because you could be ill this way too but it’s also for you.  First, you will live after they have departed and then you will be glad that you have an easy conscience and did not run away.  There will be people who will run away and which people they turn out to be may surprise you.  Second you never know when you might have a nice visit and no matter what happens afterwards this is a visit you can remember.  I can’t think of a third reason, these days I am scraping the barrel a bit, when I look in the mirror I appear to be doing barrel scraping with my eye sockets; without the make-up I now look dreadful all the time but if I can do it at five foot two and theoretically retired with a husband who dives to the pub the minute we get home, then it can be done.

The morning did not start well.  My mother rang to complain first thing.  Not about anything necessarily, just to complain.  She was surprised to hear we were going to visit, as it felt like a Sunday, but somewhat mollified and promised to have a list of what was wrong written out for me when I arrived.

You would think this would make you rush there like the wind to discover what was amiss, wouldn’t you?  So we arrived late and later than that because there were traffic problems.  But as we walked in it was apparent preparations were in progress as all the dining tables were being laid with black and gold decorations and Christmas crackers.  And for lo further down the hall a blackboard informed everyone that there was going to be a party from five until eight in the evening that very day.  Striding down the hall was my mother who, surprised to see us, told me she was going to the office to see if they could buy Christmas cards for her because she couldn’t get out and no one had helped her to get them because she had just been abandoned.  However as luck would have it the two packs of very superior cards I had brought for her were in the bag I was carrying.  I had to coax her to come back up to her room and look at them and there was a good deal of muttering on the way about how unsatisfactory they were going to be.  I, knowing the recipient, had bought the poshest mail order cards I could find which were like medieval triptychs and very nearly solid gold and diamond encrusted.  She examined them in silence as long as she could manage it ( silence has never really been her forte)  and could not prevent a couple of ‘ooh’s escaping and then said she supposed they would do though she didn’t really want to send them to people as they were too nice.  So I pointed out that there were two of each in each pack and two packs so she would be able to keep the best ones herself.

I had also brought decorations including a garland for the fireplace which I knew she would love and a tiny tree, and the present she will give her great granddaughter to show her before I take it away to wrap it up. And they were all OK.  Then I suggested I wash her hair so it would be nice for the party and she agreed, even though she wasn’t sure she would go downstairs and grace them with her presence (I was not fooled, she is the original party animal).  And when I looked in the wardrobe the sewing department had attached labels to her best velvet swirly skirt as requested so I dressed her and combed out her hair and found the bling and overdid it and over did it a bit more because the Queen wears a necklace and a brooch often and by then she was excited but not letting on and so cheerful she didn’t even go bananas when her ‘diamond’ bangle snagged her tights and she was finished and done in time to have half an hour rest before the party started.

We went downstairs to find the staff trying to put the more difficult or wheeled old people in place, a fruitless task without strong glue and we left feeling cheerful.

And tomorrow, if she remembers, I will hear how she did look better than anyone else (though we did see an old gentleman in full dinner suit polished to perfection because it is a very posh residence for the very posh of a very posh town)  and whether or not she won prizes and what rubbish they were and how much better she would have done the catering.  Though, this last, maybe not, as I learned she has made friends with the cook on the staff and they discuss matters culinary at length.

All in all a good visit and if it were the last a good one to remember.  Who would not like to make an exit after a triumph at a party?  And what is the point of a party if you cannot be better than all the other partygoers and then boast about it to your family?

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91 outside, 16 inside.

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Dreadful visit.

The last visit to my mother was so dreadful it has taken me several days to process it sufficiently to be able to write about it.  In the past, dreadful visits have frequently been an indicator of an underlying infection which has subsequently evidenced itself, so that later you tell yourself that was why she was so rude or critical or aggressive; the knowledge makes the insult easier to bear.  Now, however, as the disease takes firmer hold and the brain is destroyed, bad days are just bad days for no reason other than the condition itself.  They are very random and her mood can turn on a sixpence.  She can be nice as ninepence when I ring in the morning and accusatory, shrill and hysterical when she rings me later the same day.  The only certainty is that she will be nasty when tired.  If I get a string of phone calls starting about seven in the evening I know what sort of evening to expect. The only action I can take is to wait until they unplug her phone, wait until I’ve calmed down before I go to bed and then have a bit of a lie in in the morning followed by a work out.

Last visit when we arrived she had locked her door and wouldn’t let us in.  She shouted through the locked door that she was busy reading the newspaper and we’d have to go away.  I kept knocking patiently and explaining that it was me and that I’d come to see her and she kept replying that she was very busy sitting down.

Eventually the OH had the bright idea of ringing her on his mobile.  I spoke:  Hello it’s me.

Oh hang on Jane, there’s someone at the door.

Could you answer it?

I don’t know who it is.

It’s me.

Is it? But you’re on the phone.

Yes I’m also standing outside the door.

Oh wait a minute, I think there’s someone at the door.

Yes it’s me.

Is it?  Well you’ll have to wait.  There’s someone at the door.  I wasn’t going to answer it but I might was well because I’ve had to cross the floor because the phone was ringing.

Was it?  Well could you open the door and we’ll come in for a visit.

Will you?  (Opens the door)  Oh that was quick you were just on the phone.

Was I?  Let me put the phone down for you.

Who was it?

Oh it’s all right, they’ve rung off, anyway I’m here, as usual, for a visit.

 

It sounds funny now, I wish it had at the time.

I find often these days that washing her hair and setting it for her is helpful.  There is a hairdressing salon in the building but she has taken against the hairdresser and her hairdressing friend who used to visit the house cannot do it anymore.  In fact the hairdressing helps because  it is soothing and physical and while I am putting the curlers in all wrong and drying it too hot or too whooshy or too cold we can fall into easy hairdresser talk (avoiding the bit where I ask if she’s been on her holidays yet, because as soon as I do she’s back on a cruise ship again).  All her adult life she has been to the hairdresser once a week; as with all dementia patients any well established routine is soothing.  In deference to her physical frailty we have a break between the drying and the removal of the curlers.  Often after the brushing out the afternoon tea trolley makes an appearance which is our signal to take tea and subsequently, our leave.

The visit takes no more than three hours which will exhaust her.  In the space of three hours I can turn her mood from anything to calmer and sometimes even happy but it is exhausting work.  I feel like a tiny tug boat trying to turn an ocean liner. 

It is not natural to swallow your own feelings and reply calmly and kindly regardless of the provocation. Being relentlessly cheerful while people are either lying to you or screaming at you does not come easily either. I am getting a lot of practice.  At the weekend the OH was out all Saturday afternoon and then out at a party until half past one on Sunday morning and wasted all Sunday afternoon. My mother did a couple of aggressive phone calls on Saturday and a very confused two on Sunday.  It was her sister’s one hundred and second birthday.  My mother wanted to ring her but didn’t have the number and had to wait while I looked up the number on the Internet, then had to ring on her own, but, as her sister didn’t have a direct line, had to ask the care home office for the phone to be taken to her sister.  All of which I had to school her in over the phone.  When she rang back it was hard to find out if she was aggressive because she had done it and was tired, or aggressive because se hadn’t managed it and was annoyed.  And I’d just finished with all of that when the OH staggered downstairs sneezing and looking fifty shades of grey round the gills but not in a good way.

But by nine at night she’d been unplugged, he’d taken himself off the bed and I breathed out.

And then I cheered myself up with a bit of online shopping.

If you’re expecting a present from me it’ll be whatever annoyed people buy late at night.  Flame throwers for garden weeds or brushes with metal bristles for a lot of scrubbing or maybe just a nice simple gallon bottle of caustic drain cleaner.

Next difficult day or two I’ll be online sourcing big sheets of sandpaper for wrapping and barbed wire for the bows.

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Heigh ho heigh ho……………is there no let up at all?

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Vast quantities of assorted junk.

It’s what I brought home from my mother’s house.  Vast quantities of assorted junk.  There is so much of it that I have been going through the boxes sporadically and resting in between, or doing other things or going through my own rubbish.

When I first began I was under the impression that it was all fabulous valuable antiques.  I had been brought up on the dictum that upon the demise of my father a famous London auction establishment should be alerted and would momentarily be on the doorstep like pointer dogs with their noses through the letterbox and their hands on their mobiles to monied collectors globally, who, alerted, would be rummaging frantically down the sides of their sofas for handfuls of spare banknotes.

All of my life I had been brought up to scorn the opinion of my mother’s eldest sister, the one who will be 102 any day now, that it was all second hand.  To annunciate correctly it is necessary to say that, with a particular sneer, as you snap your rubber gloves at the wrist and prepare to scrub the surface of something brand new, wrought from nice clean plastic in a factory.  Metal is also acceptable, providing it is shiny, and lace, if starched.  Her opinion was also that her little sister would not have stood a chance if she, the sister had met the man the little sister married first and that once she had him in her clutches he would swiftly be re-educated, persuaded to stop collecting and disabused of his strange notions that anything eighteenth century was preferable to anything Victorian or newer.

My aunt was wrong on several counts.  My father assured my mother he would not have looked twice at her sister.  There is no possibility that he would have given up collecting antiques; my mother tried hard to dissuade him for 65 years  and failed utterly, he was still smuggling paper bags full of old things into the house the week before he died and, judging by the piles of books that now adorn my bedroom floor, lived most of his life, in his head, in the eighteenth century.

My aunt, however, was right on one issue, it is by and large second hand junk, mostly old, fairly grubby, failing notably to sell at provincial auctions at knock-down prices and the famous London auction establishment wouldn’t touch the slightest bit of hand sawn veneer of any of it with a late nineteenth century pole au barge, ormolu mounts and ostrich leather hand tooled handle wearing gloves, even.

Which is why vast quantities of it have landed in my house, after all the stuff the charity shops will take has been taken.  So when the kitchen drawer bottom fell out, dumping everything on the floor, what it was dumping was stuff not even good enough for a charity shop to take for free.  In the drawer already was all the usual junk.  The cutlery, the instructions for all the lights, including the ones replaced twenty years ago, kitchen gizmos, many of dubious use even when new, and the bright red building society passbook, containing the Christmas savings, which I put in a safe place immediately so as not to lose it.

24 hours later I now have old shoeboxes full of stuff that is going to the dump tomorrow just as soon as I have been through it all for the fifth time to make sure the passbook is not going to the dump too.  Of course it won’t be.  It is in a safe place.  Or alternate reality, or elsewhere.

Yes I have looked there, thank you for suggesting it.  Yes I have done my sock drawer in case.  Twice.  Yes the desk.  I no longer have your email address spider scribbled in pencil on the bottom of a tiny shopping receipt in case it could be mistaken for a red passbook.

Yes I have stood in the kitchen doing the mime.  The drawer falls out smash  I pick it up  lift   I collect a bajillion odd knives, blades to the hand ouch  I place the box full of gadgets on the counter top put I rescue the passbook from the floor and I……….

According the the mime I spin in circles cursing myself, though I don’t remember doing that so much at the time.

I had to stop half an hour ago and have something to eat as I was going all dizzy.

It doesn’t help that when the bottom fell out of the drawer I was engaged in sorting the ancient photos chucked in a box and putting them in an album and that I have photos everywhere in piles which are now spread even further in ransacked piles.  Great Uncle Percy does not look anything like a red passbook, nevertheless I have stared at him three times now in the vain hope that he might morph into one, because you never know.

I certainly don’t.  But I am not a quitter, you’ll know that if you’ve been reading a while.  I have found things I didn’t know I had, such as a dead mouse someone furry was saving for later, some really big paperclips, two red liquorice pinwheels and such a lot of candles.  I have no idea why the candles which have not been lit in living memory – we have electricity.  I put them back in the drawer because I do now have my grandmother’s candlestick, though I have no intention of putting a candle in and lighting it, the house is full of heaps of incendiary junk.  Not random junk either, sorted junk, some of it sorted up to six times.

I am going to go through the cupboard which is one entire half height wall of the kitchen before bed.  I am. 

I thought when I brought cars full of junk home repeatedly that it would take me months or years to go through it all.  It’s amazing how quickly your opinion can change.  I thought I would always have to spend time searching through the junk to find what I need whereas I now have the most indexed sock drawer in the land, I can co-ordinate with any trouser leg I have ever possessed at a moment’s notice.  Go on, mention a colour.  See?? And that, and that one for contrast and look! Stripes!

I must stop acquiring stuff.  I really must.  Sometimes I deliberately go to shops and buy things.  This has got to stop.  I must stop paddling up the Amazon immediately and if anyone wants a house clearing they can jolly well do it themselves.

I am off to tackle the kitchen cupboard.  Oh why did I bring all those plates back from my mother’s when we already had plates?  What fool has seven egg cups?*  Why save a small 1920s cut glass sauce boat when I have never knowingly made sauce in my life, except cheese sauce all poured on a cauliflower and eaten at once, boatlessly.  I have three rolling pins, am I crazy?+

It’s vast quantities of assorted junk, and, somewhere, a passbook, and also two cats, a dead mouse, one really old hard red liquorice pinwheel and a drawer full of socks sorted by colour, pattern, length and age.  Actually I am throwing the mouse out now.  There, gone.  Got to start somewhere.  Oh what idiot lives in an open plan house and fills it full of junk?%

And five dolls house kits, which are, of course, not junk but valuable pieces of wooded happiness that will be constructed just as soon as I have finished wading through the junk.

And found the passbook.

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* Me.  +Yes   % Me again, I’m afraid.

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Gout.

I was going to get up early this morning so the OH could get into the bathroom and out again to the gym.  He is, however, going to give up the gym today in favour of sitting at home nursing his gout.

Considering I haven’t got it myself and hope never to have it, gout seems to have played quite a bit part in my life. 

That is, in fact, how I might categorise the lives of those whose family and friends suffer from the disease of alcoholism; their numerous aliments including gout, road rage, moodiness, fiduciary incontinence, fiscal irregularity, malfunctioning of the heart, lungs and liver and, if they get that far, dementia, impinge upon your own sober and responsible life in a way that cannot be ignored.  Your own life can become unliveable long before their physical symptoms become obvious.

Gout, for example, affected my mother long before she had her first sip of alcohol.  To this day, aged 91, she always shuts doors quietly.  This, for someone who never enters a room she cannot command, seems out of character until you hear the stories of her father sitting with his foot up in his gout stool, sipping his whiskey (can’t help feeling the answer lies embedded in the question here, but never mind) shouting at her for slamming the door so the draught (it was that wide, that wide and pointed, no doubt) sliced across his toes like a knife.  She still does a good impression of it all these years later; her face becomes enraged and overbearing (yes I know, more overbearing than normal) as she shouts in a loud deep voice ‘Put the wood in the hole, you stupid child!’  She is acting out an injustice done to her.  She was the youngest of five, still a child when her older siblings were at work.  Full of youthful enthusiasm and high spirits and running and pouncing into room only to be shouted at by a crabby old father in pain and topping up his withdrawal.

Gout is a progressive and chronic illness, a type of arthritis, in which uric acid crystallises and forms needle-like structures in the joints that pierce the sufferer from the inside every time the joint is moved.  Sufferers, especially sufferers who are drinkers, will be very keen to tell you all about dietary causes. ill-fitting shoes and the like.  Nevertheless two of the most significant triggers for the deposition of purines in the blood (which are normally filtered by the kidneys and passed out of the body harmlessly) are dehydration and beer consumption.  There are folk with gout who have had blameless teetotal lives, if you are one and reading this, I am very sorry, jolly bad genetic luck, have this nice glass of cherry juice, I hope you feel better soon.  Their numbers are considerably outweighed by those who, waking the morning after the night before find that three glasses of water first thing simply don’t reach as far as the big toe anymore.

I have had an interesting few days examining the contents of a box of old photographs that came from  my mother’s house.  To save them from disintegrating I have purchased a 12 inch scrapbook album into which I shall stick them.  There is not much of great age from my mother’s side of the family, she was, after all the youngest of five but I did find some notes about my mother’s father’s father.  He was a ship’s steward who was killed when he fell between two ships when boarding.  His wife received no financial compensation as some local busybody said that he had been drinking.  But, said the note, it was known that he had gout and was unsteady on his legs.

You could expand this story in any direction you like; it’s difficult not to do so.  The aspect that strikes me most is the suffering of his poor wife.  If he was an habitual drinker and therefore his gout was so bad he had difficulty walking, I cannot imagine he would have been a sweet tempered individual.  Having put up with years of that, she then had to suffer financial hardship being penalised for a disease that she was powerless to control or prevent.  Poor woman, it’s a hard enough life sitting at home taking care of the children while the person who should be helping you is out drinking the money but then to be fined for doing so seems a wicked injustice.

There was no help in the dim and distant past for the families of alcoholics, there wasn’t any help for the alcoholics either, who were considered to be morally degenerate rather than people with an inherited disease.

Fortunately these days there is help for both parties.  Around the world AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, is available to help people who have chosen to live with the disease rather than die from it.  For families and friends there is Al-Anon Family groups which exists solely to give comfort and support to families of alcoholics.  It’s not there to tell you how to stop the alcoholic drinking; I don’t think there is a disease where shouting at the sufferer creates a magical cure, I wish there was but there ain’t.  It’s there to give you the support so that you can find ways yourself of living a happy life despite being surrounded by people who are so ill they are drinking themselves to death and blaming you for it.

If you have been shouted at by someone with a glass in their hand and gout in their foot you might want to go and have a look

www.al-anonuk.org.uk

this is the UK web resource which has a geographical drop-down menu to help you find the nearest meeting to you.  Al-Anon is a world-wide organisation which exists only for the benefit of its members, you can find a meeting anywhere in the world by putting Al-Anon Family groups into a search engine.  If, like the family of my great grandmother, you find yourself short of cash, you’ll be relieved to know that membership costs nothing; the group I meet with hires rooms to meet in, so we all make a small voluntary contribution that covers the cost of room hire.  If you meet in a member’s house anywhere in the world, it may cost nothing at all.  You don’t have to learn anything, or do anything at all but turn up and keep turning up for a hug and some ears.  In time you’ll discover how to give a hug and provide ears yourself.

For those of us who grew up being shouted down and shouted at it’s the revolution that can turn your attention from someone else’s gouty feet or damaged brain to your own wonderful life just waiting for you to live it.

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Serenity.

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The miserable visit.

There were many things I had earmarked to do today but I did none of them because yesterday we had a really miserable visit.

The problem with the later stages of dementia is the unpredictability of the behaviour of the sufferer.  The manager of the care home said some time ago that every day is different; yesterday was so wonderfully different it’s taken me all day today to recover.

For a while, once my mother was established in the care home and we had a routine of visits and she had given everyone a good long run for their money, things seemed to be a little easier for us when we visited.  Relations were cordial, variable, the exchanges were mostly benign, any difficulties could be fixed and I left less exhausted than I used to when I was visiting her house with all the shopping, doing the gardening, cooking a dinner and so on.  Yesterday, however, was utterly draining.  The OH wasn’t sure if he could remain awake on the way home and was so tired he forgot to swear at all the other drivers.

She wasn’t in her room when we arrived; we found her at last in the hairdressing salon, just finishing having her hair done.  She does not like the hairdresser at all and started calling the poor lady names, long before we were out of earshot.  She was confused because she didn’t have a coat and was worried about how to get home in the cold.  I reassured, I soothed, I calmed her and got her the few steps along the corridor into the lift and one floor up to her flat.  But she was disgruntled and out of sorts so everything was wrong.  I had taken two bottles of fizzy water, which was a problem as she already had some and nowhere to store them, and two bottles of Lucozade, which was was a problem because no one had opened them.  I had taken two unutterably posh hot water bottles in covers that didn’t look far off mink.  It took her a good few seconds to complain that they were too small.  I demonstrated that there were rubber bottles inside, whereupon she complained that they’d have to go back as the covers didn’t fit because the bottle was sticking out.  I had taken two cashmere cardigans, the pink one was: a beautiful colour it will suit me, oh.  (She had realised there was nothing to complain about.) The blue one had lovely pearl buttons and nice deep pockets. I  modelled both to demonstrate that they were nice and long and had extra material at the neck and were machine washable and I’d already sewn a name label in each in a place where it wouldn’t tickle and was already hanging them in the wardrobe on padded hangers by the time she was complaining that no one would do that.  She got started on the price but I am a brilliant shopper and once she had understood that both together had cost less than £100 she was left gasping like a fish in a puddle.

So we put her oxygen on her in case it was that and I showed her the 6 great granddaughter photos I’d taken for her- printed mounted and self supporting at a cost of nothing.

My poor mother.  Nothing to complain about when she was fully established in correctional mode, what was she going to do?

So she visited the past and complained about everyone she could think of and everything.  For an hour and a half she sat and blackened the name of everyone who had ever been in any sort of passing acquaintance with her family.  She particularly enjoyed the character assassination of a previous girlfriend of her brother’s, who in any case had gone on to marry into a different family completely, which was lucky for them as she sounded like a mixture of Jezebel, Salome and the nasty one off a TV Reality show.  She then got started on the OH and the difficulty his poor mother had had in raising him, which fantasy she embroidered in great detail.  It was so bad he put his crossword down and looked at me, I mouthed that he should just play along and to his great credit he just muttered something and went back to 10 across.

One of the hardest things about dealing with my mother has been the lies.  Lies are a defence mechanism, possibly attributable to having an alcoholic parent.  She has lied all my life about me and to me.  She has told lies about me to her entire family, which, as I am adopted, they are inclined to believe.  She of course, lied to the doctor, all the time, about me, about her, about the illnesses she had imagined for me and about my real ones pretending they didn’t exist.  I had a confusing childhood being taken to the doctor when I was well and sent to school when delirious, from which I once had to be rescued by an aunt I had such a high temperature.

My mother has also lied about me to me, which is quite the most annoying thing, so when she finally invented an entire false childhood for the OH, he had my sympathy, completely.

But the one thing that was so useful about having carers in my mother’s home and being so closely involved in her care was learning from the care team the golden rule for dealing with the demented, which is: that as they are incapable of entering reality it is necessary to enter their world in order to communicate with them.  If they say they are the Queen of Sheba, we merely enquire where Her Majesty would like the tea served.

Some weeks ago my mother told me on the phone of her regret that her memory was on the blink because you needed a good memory to be a liar.  She said she was sorry but she would probably have to give it up.  A week or so after that she regretted being a liar at all which was nice for about five minutes until she started to excuse herself on the grounds that it was to spare others pain or difficulty.  By the time she’d finished excusing herself I was wondering why she hadn’t got a medal for it.

She certainly made up for it yesterday.  Eventually, in spite of the protocol of agreeing with the loopy, I fell silent under the onslaught of character assassination of quite a few people I knew who were absolutely normal human beings and whoppers so huge I simply couldn’t agree or even make ‘mmhmm’ noises.

Today, on the phone, merely disgruntled, she was back to normal for her.  She said she had slept in because she was so tired.

It is your own adrenaline that makes you so tired after a visit of that nature.  There is no opportunity but to sit quietly under  a shower of vitriol awash in your chair on an ocean of untruths.

Seven weeks to Christmas.

And that’s the truth.

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And we all had a wonderful time.

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The C word

The S&H the DIL and the GD (granddaughter) came on Saturday and joined us a bit late in a restaurant because of traffic.  I was glad it was a restaurant and not me doing the cooking because of the journey time.  Numerous visits to my parents started badly because we were late.  Grown up people without rugrats underfoot forget what an effort of will it takes to get the Other Half out of bed on a not-work day and get the infant fed, watered, washed. dressed, changed when they’ve suddenly got filthy, and all in the car at once in time for the half hour of fetching stuff that got forgotten.  When we visited my parents, unless we turned up bandbox fresh in new clothes there were words and disapproval if we were late but always in time for half an hour of ‘What it takes to keep a dinner hot when people who only have to get here don’t even have the courtesy to be on time when you were told three weeks ago what time the lunch would be on the table, it is simply manners when people have been slaving over a hot stove..I have had to have three sherries while I’ve been waiting and now I’ve got a headache and it hurts my eyes to look at what on earth it is you’re wearing……….’

I decided I would never do that, so I either do cold food, or a casserole you can turn down the heat upon or, frequently, a restaurant.  This time the DIL ordered pasta for the GD, which turned out to be first-time ever spaghetti,  I fork fed the GD with the spag and she was brilliant.  Duck to water, child of probably Italian ancestry to spaghetti, natural order of the universe etc.  We were even sitting near the ladies so I could go and have a quick hose down before the next course.

Apart from the cats, which I still have after a chat with the S&H who still wants them both back, all two of them, oh dear, a strong topic of conversation and worry was the C word.  Yes Christmas is looming, potentially the fifth time I’ve had to arrange to spend the festivities with the insane and make numerous alternative arrangements in case it all goes wrong at the last minute as it did last year.  Last year relatives with a guilty conscience who hadn’t been near for months arrived and stayed for four hours, several others arrived in the days following until my mother was so hysterical with exhaustion the doctor cancelled Christmas on Christmas eve.  We removed all the food, presents and decorations and my mother retired to bed only sitting up once an hour to phone and swear at me.  We eventually had the celebrations a week later when she’d calmed down.

Some idiot suggested I don’t tell her it’s Christmas this year.  In a retirement home with 12 foot ceilings and Christmas trees to match?  Carols and bands and specially laid tables and staff dressed up as reindeers?  Are you kidding?

The generation down are planning Christmas day with the other grandma and generously offered, as they will be nearish, to meet us for half an hour at the home my mother is in, during the afternoon.  Which still leaves us having our lunch in an old folks home on Christmas Day.  If it does come to that, which I hope with every ounce of sincerity I possess, it does not, but if it does, I shall get my apron on and be a waitress. Yes I know there are homeless people all over the world who will be having nothing in a gutter and I am an ungrateful brat but I so do not fancy a festive lunch of dead animal seated between someone ostentatiously drinking water who can’t wait to get back to the pub opened specially for him and someone popping sprouts up their nose and complaining about how poorly the oxygen machine is working today.

What have I done to deserve this and why do we, as a planet, have the extreme stupidity to insist that everyone on the surface is happy for a day?  And the folly to imagine that can be achieved by killing a lot of animals and giving people socks?  And we’re supposed to be the intelligent life form?  I worry, I really do and when I’ve finished doing that I’m going to embroider ‘waitress’ on an apron.

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No answers. just questions.

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Hello again.

I thought I should just pop by in case you thought I’d vanished.  I have not.  I am here.  I did do Miniatura which was fantastic, more of this and what I took later.

I just needed a rest.

It’s been four years since my father died.  I’ve been surrounded by things and people which had become my responsibility with never a day off ever since.  Every day has had some sort of crisis, official situation, difficult person, sudden illness or practical situation needing input, approval, or sorting out.  When Miniatura loomed I knew I either had time to do everything I had to do and get ready for the show, or I had time to blog and do everything I had to do.  I chose the former.  I was quite sure my mother was going to be suddenly ill and require attention because she has done so every show for the past four years, and I warned the care home this might be the case.  They coped well and I didn’t even ring her during the show because conversations with the insane are for days when your patience and compassion are both in working order, not for days when you are likely to fall asleep the minute you sit down.  I did the show with no helper, I fitted in nearly three months of dolls on odd moments before the show and was as ready as I ever get and it was so great to have time doing the things I enjoy I decided to take time off afterwards.

I still rang my mother every day as I do.  I still dealt with all the official stuff, as one has to.  This week it was a lot of bits of paper about the meeting that the county council had concerning the Deprivation of Liberty order against my mother.  I got it on Thursday and finally managed to sit down and read it all on Sunday morning.

It was upsetting.  It is one thing to have your mother tell you she’s on a cruise ship in the war, it’s another to see it written down by an official.  It wasn’t that I disagreed with anything they were saying.  There were ten pages painting a very lifelike picture of my mother exactly as she is.  I knew that she had called the fire brigade to the building by smashing the glass on the fire alarm with her stick when she got annoyed, I just didn’t like seeing that fact printed.  No detail was spared.  Her aggression, her preferences, the progress of the disease, the care in the care home, my care and input.  Every word of it accurate, true and desperately upsetting.

For the next couple of days I have been depressed, so I’ve done the things that mend me.  I’ve gardened, I’ve worked out, I’ve got the table covered in paper crafting stuff and bought a die cutting machine.

It’s hard, this end of a demented life. It’s so sad.  Most of the things my father lived for and valued have sold for tenths of the value he put on them.  I just got advice that the huge tapestry my mother worked which the care home said was too heavy to hang, sold for under two pounds.  Today my mother sounded so tired.  She sounds as if the fight has gone out of her.

The OH has been unwell and not admitting it.  He is either irascible or complaining.  He hobbles when he walks which he is ascribing to the skin on his feet being thin.  I am ascribing this to gout, though, of course, I know nothing.

The S&H says he’s coming to take his cats.  I am devastated.  I didn’t want them when they arrived but five years later they think I’m their mother and I love them.

It feels as if everything is at a sad end, petering out and trailing off……………

On the other hand some dies have just arrived in the post that will make a cut out owl with spectacles and a moustache, so I shall finish my work out and do that.

Sometimes in life the only person you can look after is yourself, so I am and I am grateful that the circumstances are such that I can do so.  I am grateful for Miniatura and my hobbies and the fact that I can work out, get fresh air and sleep soundly each night.  I’m glad that the house has sold and generated enough money to look after my mother.  By the end of the month the care home will have activated the bank order so that payment for my mother’s care will be automated and continue until the money runs out.  This is a huge responsibility off my shoulders, now, even if something should happen to me, my mother will be cared for for the rest of her life, because once the money is used up she will qualify for free care as the home is a charitable trust.

So I did all the work early on as it arose or before, if I could foresee it, which now has bought me some time off, which is why you haven’t seen me for a while.

I’m back now, how have you been?

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Yes doctor, I’m tired all the time.

So you said, I’ve got a rubber stamp saying that just here.

Unusual is it?

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Midweek Miniatura!

What would I do without the Min?  How could I be?  What would I have to look forward to?

Nothing is the answer.  I love this show so much I couldn’t do without it.  I love everything about it.  I love getting ready for it (had the kiln on three times already), I love hearing about and meeting the new artists (lots of new ones this time) and all the exhibitors (over 150 this time), and the terrific quality and the venue (the NEC with everything you need for a great day out that the weather can’t spoil) and the free parking and Andy that arranges it and setting up to see what everyone has been up to and being there and doing it and everything.  Just everything.

Did I mention that I love Miniatura?

I do – it is so positive and cheerful and artistic that it is all I’m going to write about for a month.  No doubt the madness will descend once more, I’ve had some very serious papers to sign and there is gloom on the horizon BUT for the next month it is Miniatura season as the world’s favourite miniature art show gets into gear, once more to lift the spirits, inspire the collector and delight all comers to a wonderful weekend out.

The show is on the 1st and 2nd of October 2016 details as always at www.Miniatura.co.uk   opening with a page of work from some of the new exhibitors.

Great stuff, stay tuned!

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Tiny joys to soothe the soul.

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This too shall pass.

Someone at my Al-Anon family groups reminded me of this saying when I was so upset and worried about the Ruby wedding.  Our neighbour came out with us and the family for a meal and we got two cards.  In the middle of the afternoon my mother rang to say she is packing her college course in because she doesn’t think she wants to be a teachers’ assistant or even run the canteen.  I reminded her that at 91 it probably isn’t necessary to do either, but she said she was waiting for my father to come back and had rung and asked my cousin what she thought as she had been a teacher too.  The S&H talked to her on the phone and the baby listened and squealed a bit.

The DIL had made a cake with red writing on the icing and I thought that was wonderful.  They left the restaurant before pudding because they had a long journey and we and the neighbour got back just too late for the OH to go to the pub, which was a blessing as that would have finished me off.  There was a barbeque at the pub yesterday starting at 7 in the rain to which the OH rushed with enthusiasm and no umbrella.

I rang the cousin who had been rung by my mother to explain.  I would not describe excusing your mother’s insanity to your other relatives as easy but we did have a little bit of reference to the problem that runs through the family.  Because of the genetic component the disease of alcoholism can emerge in different way and endless combinations throughout many generations.  Often the control that other family members exhibit in the face of the disease is as damaging as the disease itself. In the past, due to relative poverty, many families may have escaped the disease.  Today it is a health epidemic affecting the baby boomers as no generation before.  It isn’t just rock stars doing drugs, downing bottles and causing sickness to themselves and collateral damage to their families – as the world gets richer, it’s everywhere.

If you have problem drinkers in your family there is help and support for you around the world.  www.al-anon.org/international-meetings  and in the UK www.al-anonuk.org.uk

The other thing that helps me to stay alive is porcelain.  For four days last week I poured and today I am beginning what will probably be a week of rubbing down my little porcelain people, before they get forged in the fire, much the same as real people.  A miniaturist once remarked at a fair how wonderful it would be if the dolls could talk.  No it would not, just as long as they cannot talk or drink we’re all safe.

When Ancient Egyptian priests did the ritual over newly made mummies prior to entombing them, part of the ceremony was The Opening Of The Mouth, so the mummy could account for themselves in the afterlife.  I hope if I open my mouth it is helpful to you, ignore it if not, safe in the knowledge that this too shall pass.

You shouldn’t have to say: this too shall pass, about a celebration, you shouldn’t have to apologise for a demented mother,  there are lots of things that happen outside a dolls’ house that make you gasp and roll your eyes a bit before you get on with it.  All you can ever do, when life makes you sad is try your best to make something beautiful out of it.  This is art and that too shall pass unless, and here we say the magic word, it is cer –am-ic!

I’m off to rub down some permanently smiling people.

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Cer-am-ic!

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Deprivation of liberty.

I should be happy, tomorrow is our ruby wedding anniversary.  The OH wants to go to a destination which is three hour’s drive away and I won’t because he isn’t well enough and I don’t want to spend four hours every evening sitting alone in a hotel bedroom while he fills up at the bar.  Normally you would have a good party but he won’t have my Al-Anon friends and I won’t entertain the pub again.  I did this five years ago, I made the garden fabulous, put on a great spread and provided flowing wine and they all turned up grim faced with cans under their arms and sat on the lawn in garden chairs drinking to oblivion.

Meanwhile my mother is on track for a Deprivation of Liberty order.  Yes, they wish to lock her up and throw away the key.  You might think after all that she did to me and the number of times I wished as a child that someone would do this, that I’d be delighted but of course I’m not.  The thought that your mother is not safe to be allowed out is not just distressing, it’s the knowledge that it’s another step towards the little quilted room, that’s really upsetting.

I do wish, with all my wishing, that young people carelessly ingesting substances and the denizens of pubs and bars who have to be peeled off the door handles at closing time could just see where it ends up.  Locked up and missing the great events of your own life and dragging your relatives down with you is where it ends up.  I am taking the fall-out for people who have carelessly damaged their brains with self indulgence and I am heartily tired of it.

My mother was assessed last week and the lady who did the assessment rang me before and after she had interviewed my mother and we had a full, frank and very helpful interchange of views and information.  I then had a talk to the care home manager after my visit to my mother this week.

I have previously written about the Mental Health Act 1983.  When the Police and Hospitals in the UK talk of ‘sectioning’ a patient, they are referring to the section of this Act of Parliament which enables  a body of several professional people concerned with the care of a person with mental health issues to detain them for their own safety or for the safety of that of the public.  It was rehearsing this Act in my head that caused me to run into a parked car last summer instead of paying attention to my turning circle as I edged out of a tight space last summer, well if I hadn’t been saying the Act over and over out loud I wouldn’t have gone into the tight space in the first place.

The Deprivation of Liberty order is, if you like, one down from sectioning.  It gives the right to permit the care home manager to keep my mother in the home.  At present when my mother is sitting beside the front door repeatedly hitting it with her walking stick because she has decided she’s going shopping; if she did manage to escape and passers-by saw the care home manager trying to womanhandle my mother back inside (good luck to her, my mother is built like a brick out house, I reckon it would take three carers at least) the passers-by could call the police and be on the side of my mother.  (It takes all sorts).  Once the order has been passed by a board of the county council the care home manager will be within her legally expressed rights.

The fact that my mother can go out shopping if accompanied, the fact that this has been arranged several times and then not happened because my mother has been throwing a dicky-fit.  The fact that my mother couldn’t manage to go down the five steps into the building without help.  The fact that my mother couldn’t actually walk as far as the shops a whole two streets away without needing oxygen.  The fact that she mainly only wants to go shopping because they don’t want her to.  All these things are facts but they have no bearing on the central requirement, which is that the care home manager should not be prosecuted by passers-by just because she’s doing her job.

Then there’s the OH.  He has had a suggestive blood test result which will be repeated in a couple of months to see if it’s gone away or not.  He might have cancer, he might not.  The fact that he has poured pints of beer and wine through his waterworks every day for for fifty years has nothing to do with anything, he shouts.  When I said it might, he called me delusional, twice, which, considering my mother actually is, cruising as she currently is outside of Rio and Newcastle simultaneously, was very rude and nasty.

I am so upset at what these people have done to me and are doing every day.  Their abusive behaviour and language is tiring me out.  I am sick of listening to the diatribes of damaged brains, about how I am crazy or carers are bitches, or other drivers are ****s or ****s.  None of these people hear it, and neither should they.  Carers are angels without wings and other drivers are considerably better than the person with the road rage.  The only person into whose ears the vitriol is poured is just me standing in the torrent of  abuse from people who have damaged their brains with alcohol and self indulgence.

The two people I see most of in my life are in a race to the death.  I no longer care who wins.

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40 years.  I either need a medal or my head read, I’m not sure which.

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