“But this wasn’t on the activities roster…”

May 27, 2009 at 4:03 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, false alarm. Nana’s definitely still got dementia. A little day-trip to Lucidity Land had me fooled for a second there (‘Have we done the right thing? Could she have stayed at home a little longer? Maybe we were premature…’), but it didn’t take long for the return of the Alzheimer’s Alert.

“I hear you’ve had visitors,” I said, knowing Kate and Harper had been in.

“Who?” she wanted to know.

“Kate and Harper.”

“Oh yes,” she said, “just a lightning visit, really. Harper’s such a sweet thing.”

“She is,” I said. “She’s beautiful.”

“She looks out from under her eyelashes.”

“Well,” I said, “I think with all the universal adoration she’s pretty aware of her charms.”

“I think so. I’ve charmed a few in my time myself, you know.”

(Nana’s landed four husbands – not that she remembers them all now – so yeah, no kidding.)

“I’m sure you have.”

“Oh, there’s a very good looking one here,” she said. “Big strapping thing. Very handsome.”

Oh my god, I thought. That didn’t take long.

“So you’re on the dating circuit, Nana?” We laughed. “There’s a good reason to go to happy hour. You can chat him up.”

“I might,” she said coquettishly. Then her voice dropped to a whisper. “Except I don’t mind telling you there are some very strange people here. People with very odd views. Weird religious people. What do you call them? Sects.”

I frowned.


“Yes, sects. They’ve railroaded me into a cold bath tomorrow morning. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. They just forced me into it.”

“A cold bath?” I said. “Really? That sounds extremely unpleasant.”

To say nothing of extremely unlikely. 

“I don’t know what it’s all about either. I’ll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

“Well, I don’t really like the sound of that. I’ll call you tomorrow and find out what the story is.”

“There are some very peculiar types,” she said again. More ominously this time. “With very strange ideas.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s a Catholic place. That’s why we thought you’d like it. I don’t know about this sect business. It’s Catholic. Like you.”

(Nana became Catholic very late in life, in her seventies.)

“I don’t know about that,” she sniffed. “But I can tell you there are some very strange people here.”

“Nana,” I said, “the weirdos will always follow you in. They’re everywhere. You just can’t escape them. I think the best you can do if there’s someone you don’t like is try and stay out of their way.”

“I’m not afraid of anyone,” she said. “I’ll tell them to bugger off. I don’t mind telling them what I think.”

“No, I know. You know how to despatch them.”

“Well, I do.”

“Have you been getting into the activities?”

“No. What activities?”

“Well, there’s an activities roster. They gave me a copy so I could see what you were doing.”

“Did they?”

“Yes. Don’t you have one?”

“No. I’ve got a very nice bedspread.”

I laughed. 

“It’s funny you should say that,” I said. “I noticed the bedspread too.”

“Have you seen it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I saw it when I was there. The patchwork one or the gold and cream one?”

“The patchwork,” she said. “It’s really very nice. And you’ve seen my bag?”

Have I ever. She won’t release her grip on that bag for anything, not even cake. The bag rolls with.

“Yes, Nana. It’s a very nice bag.”

“I can take that bag anywhere.”

“You can.”

She does.

We went on like this for a little while longer. Nana can and does talk about bags and brooches for hours. The same bag, the one brooch. Round and round we go. But that was yesterday, so I’m going to have to call and find out about this cold bath – I wonder if she’ll even know she said it? 



I called her just now and said, “So what happened with the cold bath?”

“What cold bath?”

“You told me when I called last time someone was making you have a cold bath. It was all a bit strange and we couldn’t work out what was going on.”

“Well,” she said, “I didn’t have one at any rate.”

Okay. Glad we got that one worked out. But she sounded a bit uptight just now.

I said, “Nana, you sound a bit agitated. Is everything all right?”

“I was eating a lolly just now, but I’ve finished it.”

“Oh,” I said. “I might’ve known food was involved.”

And we had a laugh and she seemed to calm down, but then she said, “I feel like I haven’t seen anyone I love.”


“Oh Nana,” I cried, “I was there last week.”

“Yes, well,” she said, “that was last week.”

“And Kate has been twice this week.”

“That’s true,” she conceded. “Kate’s been very good.”

“It’s hard because I’m so far away.”
“Where are you?”



It made me feel like a dog. And really, really sad. But Kate and I had a good long chat yesterday about the “sect,” because the last time Nana was outright paranoid and delusional, she was in hospital, and developed a urinary tract infection that made her really wig out. I think I’ve posted about this: she developed an entire conspiracy theory about the nursing staff and was genuinely terrified. She was so afraid for her life she escaped the hospital in the dead of night, barefoot and in her hospital gown, and was eventually rescued by a kindly cabbie who saw her attempting to scale a perimeter fence. I mean, incredible. Anyway, I raised this with Kate yesterday and when she went in today, she started to talk to the nurse about the last time Nana was far, far out to lunch, and the nurse finished the sentence for her: “…and it was a urinary tract infection.” So they’re on it.



  1. David Rochester said,

    Perhaps the cold bath is on the activities roster? 😉

  2. doctordi said,

    The activity roster in her mind, definitely, but otherwise, not so much with the cold bath thing!!

  3. Pete said,

    Funny and really sad. Sounds like your Nana should make friends with my dog. They both share an aversion to cold baths for one thing. And another: both will take on perimeter fences with gusto. Hope the UTI isn’t too serious.

  4. litlove said,

    Oh Di, these dialogues are so funny and so tragic. On the bright side, it sounds like a very good, caring and attentive home that she is now in, so you can at least rest assured she is being looked after well. On the down side, well, there’s everything else about her condition. I know I depend on conversation so much to reassure me about the state of my loved ones, so to have that particular rug whipped from under one’s feet must be so odd and disquieting. You handle her marvellously, I must say.

  5. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’m so impressed by the way you can carry on conversations with your Nana and go along with the scenario. It’s kind and tender and nimble-witted.

  6. Grad said,

    I have to echo Litlove, your conversation with Nana was so poignantly funny. In situations such as the one in which you find yourself, humor helps, believe me. My dad didn’t have Alzheimers, but his brain tumor resulted in similar symptoms. I was sitting with him as he was watching The Price is Right. He let out a loud very dirty cuss word, and started to chuckle. He said to me, “Lindy, Bob Barker can hear me and it drives him nuts. Yesterday he stopped the show and said, ‘whoever’s doing that better stop.'” “That’s amazing, Dad! Go get ’em.” It was the highlight of my dad’s day, messing with Bob Barker. Who was I to spoil the fun?

  7. doctordi said,

    Litlove, I am really so glad she’s in such a good place. And the fact that – aside from the ‘strange types’ – she keeps saying how nice the people are. So I said if someone is bothering you, just tell the staff – it’s so sad because she said ‘Some of them aren’t right in the head.’ Um, yeah, you could say that. But yes, knowing she’s in such a great facility is an enormous and constant comfort.

    Lilian, I think the path of least resistance is, in this scenario, just much more pleasant all round. I don’t want to confuse or upset her. And I also don’t want to patronise her. It’s tricky. I have to take things seriously that I know aren’t true, but in the end I’ve found that’s not such a terribly big ask.

    Grad, does that mean your name’s Lindy?

    Oh yeah, the humour of the situation is the only thing keeping me sane. I said to Deb, one of the Darklings, who’s just placed her mum in a facility this week after a bed “became available” overnight (she said they all felt like hovering vultures) – another scenario that isn’t funny but also really, really is – that we have to laugh, we just must. I ADORE your dad. The Price is Right? Surely you mean priceless.

  8. Charlotte said,

    My mum, like Grad’s dad, had a brain tumour. And believe me that made for some black humour (like when we took her out for lunch and her sister unwittingly ordered brains – that was a sight, on the plate, next to mum’s giant scarred bald head …)

    – once near the end, when she was losing all kinds of motor skills, mum was very proud to have dressed herself. Except she came out of her room saying, ‘this shirt doesn’t seem to fit so well anymore’ – she had it on, and this is difficult to visualise I know, UPSIDE DOWN. So it was a shirt with a teeeeny little waist and a great huge flapping off-the-shoulder collar, and the armholes began at a strangely low point on the bodice. Luckily, once my sisters pointed out this minor error, she thought it was hilarious and rang everybody up to tell them, in gales of laughter, what she’d done.

    Man, you do gotta laugh. Insanity is the only other option. Love the nanna stories.

  9. doctordi said,

    Llew’s mum survived a brain tumour when he was in Year 12 – it always seems miraculous to me, and I’m so glad she beat it, because she’s a great one for laughter, and I get to be her daughter-in-law (quite a coup).

    That ordering faux pas is something you couldn’t script.

    I didn’t know you’d lost your mum – at all or to a tumour – I am so sorry, Charlotte. But oh god, that’s quite a trick!! I’m so, so totally in awe of the fact that your mum’s waist fit into a space intended for her neck. And that she laughed and laughed when she realised what she’d done. Clearly a supremely stylish woman all round.

  10. Charlotte said,

    I know – it must have been a pretty big-necked shirt! My sisters reported it so I still have a strange pic in my head … i think she had a few buttons at the neck end undone, to fit it on. But yes, weird and hilarious as only the most blackly tragic things can be, as your other correspondents report. And hooray for Llew’s mum. Good on her.

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