Lady Alzheimer is on the move…

July 7, 2009 at 7:25 am (Uncategorized)

Good news, everyone: Nana has scored an upgrade! How much do we love Crowley? It just keeps winning bonus points. The latest was a ‘request’ yesterday to move Nana into her own room in the dementia-specific part of the facility. You honestly think you need my permission for that?! Go right ahead! Absolutely! Kate and I are both really pleased; Nana needs to be in a dementia-specific area because she has dementia, and it’s just getting worse, so there’s a fear that she might start taking off. She hasn’t done that yet, but Kate said when she got there yesterday, Nana was packed and ready to go, handbag and Harrods bag at the ready.

“Did she think she was going somewhere?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Kate said. “But she looked ready for any contingency.”

As long as she doesn’t make a break for the doors, we’re okay. And even if she did make it outside, I doubt she’d venture very far because she has no idea where she is, whereas when she was still in Maroubra, she was emboldened by her long-standing routines, and headed out unaccompanied with increasingly alarming regularity. Lady Alzheimer was on the loose. But she hasn’t tried leaving Crowley once, and while that’s a good thing, it may change at any time, and so the move into the dementia wing is timely. The other great thing about it is that there’s only seven beds, so it’s much more homey and much less institutional. I called just now to see how moving day went, and Nana was once more fixated on the bedspread.

“I’ve got a really special bedspread,” she told me. “I am extremely pleased with my selection. It’s my latest purchase and I’m very happy with it.”

The bedspread has been provided by Crowley, of course, as were the other bedspreads that were such a hit when she first moved in, but if Nana believes she’s chosen them, one and all, so be it.

“Is it the patchwork one?”


“The gold and cream one?”

“No,” she said. “It’s white and blue, and it’s really very nice. I’ve chosen very well.”

“You’ve always had good taste, Nana.”

“That’s true,” she said, “and did I tell you I have a very good quality bedspread?”

We didn’t get much further. I did try to gently steer her around to the fact of having her own room, but she wasn’t biting. The RN told me Nana was very anxious this morning – understandably; no one likes moving even with all their marbles intact – and although I wouldn’t describe her as agitated, she was certainly a little suspicious about her change in room status.

“So you have your own room now?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she said. “But I’ll put up a fight to stay there.”

The good news is she won’t have to. It’s her room, she’s in it now, they’re going to hang her pictures on the wall, and we have her armchair at Kate’s ready to be delivered. Brilliant.

Last week things weren’t going quite as smoothly. My phone was at the other end of the apartment the day my sister was urgently trying to reach me. By the time I got to my phone, I think I’d missed about four calls.

“What is it? What’s happening?”

“It’s Nana,” Kate said. “Crowley called me this morning because she’s been saying she has to visit you at work on Oxford Street. She said she’s got to see you, no one else will do. She’s getting herself into quite a state. I tried talking to her, but she wasn’t interested in talking to me. She was definite. You’re the one she wants.”

I have to admit part of me swelled with a whole wild mix of emotions when Kate said that. Me? Nana wants me…? How unexpected. But also how… gratifying and validating. It seems the last seven years – when it’s just been the two of us hanging out in Sydney – have made a positive impression on her after all. I felt bad, guilty, even, for not being there, but I also felt a bit chuffed that she was calling for me and insisting no one else would do. What a turn up for the books.

“But I’ve never even worked on Oxford Street,” I told Kate.

“I didn’t think so,” she said, “but Nana’s adamant. She keeps saying she knows exactly where she has to go and she’s going.”

“Well, she’s not going to get very far. Even if she made it out onto the driveway. I mean, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Oxford Street is a long way from Ballina.”

“I tried to tell her that,” Kate said. “I keep telling her you’re a plane ride away. But she seems to think Oxford Street is just outside. Or maybe she’s planning to charter a plane. If you hear a chopper hovering over your street, you might want to check it out. It could be Nana.”

“You know,” I said, “this is probably a real memory, and now she’s just attaching it to me because she can’t remember whose workplace it really was, and her mind is just starting to attribute stuff to you and me so that things still make sense. Granddad used to live at Taylor Square, remember. Or maybe it’s someone else’s old office. But it’s probably a real place, and a real memory, and she’s just trying to make it fit.”

“I guess,” Kate said doubtfully. “But she seemed pretty agitated about whatever it is she’s got to tell you.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll give her a call and call you right back.”


“Hi Nana, it’s Diana. What’s up?”

“Well, I wanted to come and see you.”

Surprise number one: she was very clear about that – she still knew she wanted to see me earlier… that’s unusual, that level of short-term ¬†retention.

“Oh, that’s so nice, and I wish I could see you too. But it’s a bit tricky at the moment, Nana. I’m too far away.”

“Where are you?”


She laughed.

“Oh yes,” she said gaily. “Well, that is too far away.”

“A plane ride, in fact.”

“Is it?”
“I’m afraid so.”

“I didn’t think it was so far,” she said. “I just wanted to see you.”

Lump. In. My. Throat.

“Did you have something you wanted to tell me?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I don’t have any news.”

“Have you been getting into the activities?”
“Oh, there’s one here, but I’m not sure I’m interested.”

Okay. Now is as good a time as any to let you all know that ‘activities’ seems to have become a euphemism for ‘men.’

“Is that Mark?”

“Who’s Mark?”

“You told me there was someone there named Mark who was very attentive.”

“Oh yes,” she sniffed. “I suppose he is, but he’s a bit full of himself, and it’s a bit of a turn off.”

“Believes his own press, does he?”

“That’s it,” she said. “But there’s another one who’s always ready.”

(Ready for what, exactly? One hardly dares ask.)

“So you’ve got a couple on the go, Nana? Atta girl. Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.”

She giggled.

“He’s always there when we go to collect our pay. You know.”

Uh huh. Okay. Now we’re no longer talking about the here and now. So, I wonder, were we ever? Is the infamous Mark even a resident. or is he some Lothario from her working past? God only knows. But Oxford Street? Not a word. Something she had to tell me and me alone? Gone. Except that she wanted to see me. She didn’t forget that, and neither will I.



  1. charlotteotter said,

    I LOVE your stories about Nana, because they are so filled with love. Also, they remind of my grandmothers with their Harrods bags and their dementia (what WAS it with that generation and Harrods?).

    One time my grandmother took it in her head that her family had moved her to a horrible institution. They had not; she was still in the lovely home where she had lived for most of her married life.

    “Okay,” said my dad, giving in after days of trying to persuade her that she was, in fact, at home. “Let’s take you back then.”

    He packed her in the car, drove her around the block and said, “Now you’re home.”

    She settled happily back in the chair she’d been in ten minutes before and proclaimed, “It’s so lovely to be home at last.”

    Lady Alzheimer’s, we know her.

  2. Lilian Nattel said,

    That conversation is so sad and sweet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m impressed by the way you can converse with your Nana.

  3. Grad said,

    Di, your Nana is a total cutie. I love hearing about her. How I hate Alzheimers! Who in hell thought it up? It had to be someone from there. Someday “they” will find a way to kick its ass. A splendid day that will be.

  4. doctordi said,

    Laughing at the Harrods Brigade, Charlotte – I don’t know what it is, but they LOVE it. She’s been toting a Harrods bag around for a good decade now at least. Maybe two. Oh, that story about your grandma… oh, oh, it makes me so sad! But good thinking, Dad! I’ll have to store that one away in my bag of how-to-outwit-dementia tricks. It’s been the greatest relief of this entire challenge that Nana likes where she is, and is happy. It must be so distressing for the family when a loved one becomes convinced not only of something that isn’t true, but of something awful. A real trial for all involved, I’m sure.

    Thanks, Lilian. I think most people would do the same… you have to find a way.

    Yeah, it’s a horrible thing, Grad. But at least Nana’s one of the ones who’s in a pretty good place with it. Her mind has locked onto good memories, happy days, her better self – since Alzheimer’s makes some people really angry and nasty, even violent, I honestly feel like we’re doing pretty well. I’m glad you guys all enjoy the Nana posts so much – she’d love having adoring fans.

  5. davidrochester said,

    These posts, while I have always loved them, have taken on new meaning since my aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I can only hope she ends up in as benign a place, both in her mind and in her circumstances, as your dear Nana has done. Nana is lucky to have you. No wonder she wants to see you … and no wonder she remembers that.

  6. doctordi said,

    David, I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt’s diagnosis (is that young??), and I do really hope her experience is similar to Nana’s, because once this thing comes for a family member, I truly think the best you can do is hope a happy disc is playing in the mind machine.

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