Through the Wind and Driving Rain…

February 16, 2009 at 8:05 am (Uncategorized)

Hello my dears – I am back at the embarrassingly grand monstrosity that is my desk (Stephen King would not approve of its immodest size nor its position in the centre of the room; he advocates a small desk in a corner, just to keep us all honest. Sorry, Stephen, but it just won’t fit anywhere else, and we had to have it). It’s been an admin day today, and I’m not even close to done. I think I have to do my tax return tomorrow – the good paperwork fairies still won’t be roused, try as I might to persuade them. Instead, very bad paperwork ghouls have taken over my apartment and, from what I can gather, Australia Post’s mail run, and the result of their handiwork is a big pile of super boring bills and Aged Care Assessment type things that, when thrown into the air in a fit of frustration, fall back to earth spelling ‘UP YOURS, DI.’  I can hear those ghouls sniggering now.

But speaking of aged care, you’ll be pleased to know the road trip with Lady Alzheimer’s went off with nary a hitch. All things considered, Nana behaved like a dream passenger. Oh, we had our confusion, all right, but I was fully expecting a total debacle that might well have ended with our filing a missing persons report at a police station somewhere on the Pacific Highway. On the way up to Ballina, we pulled into a classic motel for the night (they are so filmic, I just adore them, even the really cheesy ones), and I thought there was every chance Nana would wander off in the night with nothing but her rosebud nightie. This was no idle fear. Nana went over the wall during a hospital stay a few years ago, so I knew she had it in her. She was rescued that time by a kindly cabbie, who saw her attempting to scale a perimeter fence like something straight out of The Woman in White, but who knows what may have befallen her had she left her motel room to explore the unsuspecting township of Taree?

Travelling with Alzheimer’s requires resourcefulness, you see, because I knew she’d wake up, much like the unconscious buck who’s been put on a flight by his hilarious friends on the eve of his wedding, with no idea of where she was, how she got there or where she was going. And that would be AWFUL. A really nasty experience for her, and one bound to lead to panic and, well, a flight response.  My solution was packing several poster-sized sheets of cardboard and a permanent marker. Once Nana was happily ensconced in her room, I went to ours and wrote out big notes for her that I distributed around her room in key zones: next to her handbag by the bed, by the door, and on top of her suitcase. They were all variations of the following: NANA, DIANA AND LLEW ARE RIGHT NEXT DOOR, ROOM 8. WE’RE IN TAREE, ON THE WAY UP TO BALLINA TO SEE KATE AND KIDS. STAY PUT!! 

I’m pleased to say – quite chuffed with myself, actually – that these notes did the trick. I asked Nana if they were helpful when she woke up, and she said, “As a matter of fact, yes.” And although she was confused about just about everything else on the way up, she wasn’t confused when she woke up in the morning, and that was a win. Unfortunately we had incredibly bad and dangerous weather the entire way – driving rain that they could better use down south to douse those bloody fires – which meant a slow trip and a running (read recurring) commentary from the backseat that occasionally had Llew gripping the wheel. He’s not used to the repetition, you see, whereas I’ve become quite accustomed to it. At least, I know it’s coming, I know it’s not her fault, I know she doesn’t know it’s tedious, I know there’s nothing we can do about it, so I know there’s no point getting frustrated. 

“It seems to be taking a long time to get to Newcastle,” was the quote of the first half. 

“We’re not going to Newcastle, Nana, we’re going to Ballina to see Kate and the kids.”

“Are we?”


“I’ve been to Newcastle before, you know.”

“Have you?”

“Yes. And I didn’t think it was this far away.”

So it went, and so it goes. But the good news is, she’s now there for a month’s respite. St Andrews is BRILLIANT, and my sister and the kids are seeing her every day so far, and Nana’s finally been persuaded (thanks to the attentions of one or two of the resident gentlemen – yes, already, they’re frisky these old boys) to do away with her wig and get her own hair styled instead (long story) at the on-site salon, if you don’t mind. I am just so thrilled and relieved to think that she’s enjoying herself so far – when Kate arrived the other day, Nana was off at Bingo. Dare I say it? Bingo!



  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’m so glad she is. Those notes you made were so ingenious and caring.

  2. doctordi said,

    I was rapt that they worked, Lilian – I think note-leaving is quite a handy thing to keep in mind for future reference when it comes to helping Nana. You can’t make anything very long, because her attention span is shot, but clear, simple messages definitely worked.

    Yes, I’m glad too, especially having seen the place. Without a doubt it’s the nicest nursing home I’ve ever strolled through – and to have her already participating and again taking more interest in herself and others? Well, that’s just a dream result. Kate tells me Nana is still confused about where she is and how long she’s staying – perhaps we should write a decorative note for the bedside…?

  3. Miriam said,

    That’s such a good idea! I’m sorry my grandma never got the benefit of your resourcefulness – for years she vacillated between Hungary, Hong Kong and Sydney, and it never occurred to anyone to put a sign by her bed saying she was in a nursing home in Adelaide. Well done.

  4. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Ms. M, although I’m sorry your grandma wasn’t sure of her own whereabouts towards the end – I can only imagine it must be sort of terrifying in a low-level way. I’ve been thinking of you, wondering if you’ve had any news yet from you-know-who. Taking their sweet bloody time, aren’t they?!

  5. litlove said,

    I felt for Llew and I was tremendously proud of you. The notes were a masterstroke, as was the patience with the running commentary, which I am not sure I would have had. My answer to just about every car situation is to play an audio book over the top of it, and really, that is not always a wise move. So delighted to hear she is doing well in her new situation. Do you know that women having a change of hair style has been linked to a sense of altering identity? And that we hang longest onto the haircuts that remind us of the best times we had? This could be a good sign.

  6. doctordi said,

    Isn’t the old story that a radical new hairstyle denotes the end of a relationship?! This seemed to hold true when I was an undergrad – hair was an excellent indicator of one’s relationship status. I hope the same is not quite true now – Llew had all his hair cut off yesterday!

    I have never listened to an audio book, not one, but you and Stephen King have this in common, Litlove, he says in On Writing that he listens to at least half a dozen in the car every year. I can’t quite imagine it – how long has this been going on??

  7. Miriam said,

    Hey, sorry, always running behind in blogland because of the no internet at home. Thanks for thinking of me Di, they are indeed taking their sweet bloody time and then some, but I try to be zen. I did call up a few weeks ago like you suggested, and established that my contact is an actual person, and a very nice and apologetic one who promised I’d hear something within a week or so. That was 3 weeks ago. Zen. Gar. Sigh.

    With my grandma I got the feeling that the location confusion was terrifying during the transition periods, when she hadn’t quite decided where she was just then. The rest of the time I think she was happy enough, believing herself to be some place more exciting than she was.

    What if your partner cuts your hair? Does that mean they’re subtly breaking up with you?

  8. doctordi said,

    Zen is good. It’s not to be found anywhere near my house, of course, but I hear good things about it. Well, you’re in the ‘or so’ phase now, so hopefully it’s the final stretch. Am willing all good things with vein-popping fervency.

    I absolutely love the idea that your grandma believed she was somewhere exotic when in actual fact she was in an Adelaide nursing home. And I’m SO glad no one left her any notes disabusing her of her flights of fancy – I bet it was high times wherever the memories were taking her.

    Or secretly sapping your strength??!!

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