Four Years, But Who’s Counting?

December 11, 2008 at 3:59 am (Uncategorized)

It’s our fourth wedding anniversary today. I’m looking at my gorgeous bunch of lilies from Llew as I type and looking forward to seeing him after we both finish work tonight. Unfortunately he’s having a hideous couple of weeks at work: lots of pressure, lots of stress, lots of unpaid overtime, lots of unhappy people. It’s not ideal and doesn’t exactly leave him in a celebratory frame of mind. We’re not really at our most buoyant at the moment simply because of life’s various curve balls (or cracks, as Couchtrip Pete accurately describes them). I sent my MS to Varuna Tuesday and it was straight over to Nana’s for the day yesterday. After six straight hours hanging out with dementia, I thought I was going crazy myself. I’ve just been talking to Nana’s chemist on the phone, and when prompted about our day together yesterday, Nana drew a complete blank and said she spent the day by herself. Wow. I cannot tell you how deflating that is. That’s kind of what I mean when I say she’s not really benefiting – she won’t remember no matter what happens. I’m there, I’m not there, she goes out, she doesn’t go out, it’s all the same to her. She’s adrift in a sea of Alzheimer’s and doesn’t even know she’s out there. It’s horrible. Horrible to witness – I’m not sure it’s particularly horrible for her, because she’s utterly unable to comprehend and therefore reflect on her condition. I think that’s merciful, but it doesn’t make it any easier to manage. 

The GREAT news is that we spent the first couple of hours with Liz from Uniting Care and we’re getting Nana all signed up for the six hours assistance a week. I wanted to throw myself at Liz’s feet, I really did. I think the people who work with dementia on a daily basis must be saints. I don’t know how they do it. It was such a relief even having her in Nana’s lounge room that I very nearly started bawling (and finished the day doing just that on my way out Nana’s door). Nana’s ankles were worryingly swollen so I took her off to the doctor. Unfortunately her regular GP wasn’t in, and the useless doctor we DID see at Nana’s medical centre promptly told us she’d have to come back today because “She’s Dr X’s patient.” Que? Nana’s entire medical history was on that doctor’s computer screen – how hard could it be saving an 85 year old woman another day on her feet when her ankles resembled the base of two trees? Too hard, evidently. We were ushered out the door without so much as a lollipop. I couldn’t get back over there today – as it is my once a fortnight commitment is rapidly becoming once a week out of sheer necessity and concern – but after much prompting, and an hour when she was totally MIA, Nana did make it back in by herself for her appointment, and now has something for her legs. But here’s the thing: will she apply it? NO! Of course not. It’s just so obvious to me that she’s no longer fit for independent living and it amazes me that all these medical practitioners keep sitting us down and saying “We’ll keep her at home for as long as possible.” Is that really what’s best for her? I can’t see how it can be. She’s failing to bathe herself, feed herself, pay her bills, launder her clothes or basically initiate a single thing. She doesn’t even know the Emergency number. So how can they keep telling me she’s best off where she is??  Also the dementia specialist who did the assessment at the Prince of Wales said we wouldn’t see a sharp decline – I beg to differ. Here’s how the waiting room conversation went down yesterday:

Nana: We might as well leave. We won’t be seeing anyone today.

Me: Yes we will, Nana. We have an appointment.

Nana: With Doctor Y?

Me: No. Doctor Y isn’t here today. We’re seeing one of the other doctors at three o’clock. Look at your ankles. We have to get them seen to. 

Nana: We might as well walk out of here. We’re not getting in to see anyone today.

Me: Yes we will. We have an appointment.

Nana: With Doctor Y?

Me: No. Doctor Y isn’t here today. We’re seeing one of the other doctors.

Momentary pause.

Nana: Are we going now?

This went on and on and on until I ran outside to get sandwiches and scream. Round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round. And yet she’ll tell you she does her laundry every Monday morning at ten.

Me: And what day is it today, Nana?

Nana: I couldn’t tell you.



  1. couchtrip said,

    Happy Anniversary and big congrats re the MS!! I forgot how many hours ahead you are but by now you will be both be very merry or possibly asleep 😉 Sorry about your Gran’s condition. I guess they get like babies again and it must be really tough to cope with that on a continual basis.

  2. doctordi said,

    I’ve thought about this a lot, Pete, and I think it’s actually the opposite. Babies are constantly growing and learning; elderly people are diminishing and unlearning… so with babies I guess carers are gratified and encouraged and see their efforts rewarded, whereas in this sort of case there’s a grim futility that, to be honest, can be quite testing.

  3. Jenny said,

    As I think I told you, my Mum died from dementia. I kept her home with me for two years before putting her in a nursing home. The catalyst for that was when I arrived home and my then fifteen year old daughter, Heather, met me at the door.
    “Nan’s not well,” she said.
    Apparently Nan fell, naked in the bathroom, and had diarrhea. She was confused and unable to stand. My gorgeous teenage daughter cradled her naked grandmother in her arms, put her in the bath, washed her, dressed her in a fresh nighty, and put her to bed. I will forever be grateful to Heather for that. Awful but wonderful. You are on a steep learning curve Darkling.
    Jenny xo

  4. doctordi said,

    I’m completely humbled by all of that: your taking your mum in full-time for t-w-o y-e-a-r-s, with all the stresses and trials dementia brings, your daughter’s lovely, heartbreaking care. I can’t begin to comprehend how you did that. I lived with Granddad as one of two primary carers for the last year of his life, but he had his wits ’til his dying day – a very different situation. The good news is Nana and I had what can only be described as a successful outing yesterday. We had lunch before her podiatry appointment at a lovely little cafe, she wolfed her meal down, drank her juice, chose treats to take home and generally seemed to have regained a bit of appetite, but more than that, she loved Paul the podiatrist. He did his thing, the horror of the toenails is a thing of the past, and all was well, even if just for the afternoon. Also the swelling has come down, and the Uniting Care people have been twice with positive results, so… yesterday felt like a small win.

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