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.


And we all had a wonderful time.

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