A Perfect Day

Following our visit to see Mum last week I received my usual ‘catch up’ phone call from my sister who informed me that Mum had told her that Robert and I had split up and that I had been to visit her with my ‘new man’! Strangely, he looked just like Robert!

After a week of socialising and watching hours and hours of the Olympics I decided we should take Mum out for the afternoon to Hanbury Hall and was delighted to arrive in beautiful sunshine with a clear blue sky. Mum was on the commode on our arrival being ably assisted by one of her carers so we politely waited outside until she had finished. Her carer informed me that she was having real difficulty standing or walking due to problems with her right ankle which flares up from time to time. It is very difficult to know if this is real or imaginary or related to her peripheral neuropathy.

She was keen to go out so I put her make up on and we managed to get her into her wheelchair. She was in very good spirits and although she didn’t appear to recognise Robert initially she laughed when I told her we had been married for 17 years and asked what she had been doing all that time!

The Worcestershire countryside was at it’s very best. Many of the fields had been harvested with the rolls of hay lying in the field waiting to be collected.

Mum chatted happily to ‘herself’ all the way to Hanbury Hall. When we arrived the car park looked a bit busy and she declared that it was far too busy and demanded we take her home again! When I explained that we had come to see the gardens and have lunch she readily agreed to get out of the car and somehow we managed to get her into her wheelchair.

The gravel paths are very bumpy but she was very good-natured about it and laughed when we saw a man nearly fall over. ‘we shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s misfortune’ she giggled. She stopped and looked in wonder at the formal garden and said how beautiful it looked. Later when we saw the same garden again, she stopped and said the same thing as if it had been the first time she had seen it.

Robert pushed her around the grounds and she chatted away quite happily.

We stopped for lunch in the outdoor cafeteria. Robert went inside to fetch some sandwiches, coffee and cakes. ‘Where has everyone gone?’ she asked!

Over lunch we chatted to her about our week, the Olympics and all the countries she had visited with Dad. She asked me where her cousin Auntie Jean was and I explained that she had died 3 years ago. ‘did I know that ?’ she asked. I told her that she did and she said ‘ well I expect I have forgotten the things I didn’t want to remember.’

I had given her a straw sun hat to wear which she loved and she said to me ‘ now don’t go losing that hat – it belongs to my sister.’ I reminded her that she didn’t  have a sister to which she replied she is not my real sister, she is my Love sister. She loves me and I love her. I told her that I had never heard of that before and she laughed ‘ nor have I’ she said.

She mentioned my Dad Howard on one or two occasions and suddenly said ‘where is Howard?’I pointed up to heaven. ‘You mean he is dead?’ she asked. ‘Yes, and he has been for nearly 25 years.’ ‘No wonder I can’t remember’ she replied!

She enjoyed her lunch and we went for a further stroll round the gardens. She chatted away about all sorts of things and as different people. One such conversation went as follows

‘ You know I had a bad fall the other day. Well I had to go and see my GP who said it was the worst bruise he had seen on a man of my age. I had a headache for 2 days. Anyway, Joan how are you?’

‘ Oh, I am very well. I haven’t had any falls for ages!’

We spent a few hours wandering round the gardens and returned to the car around 4 30pm. On the way back she declared that she was very tired and wanted to go to bed. Robert asked her if she had had a good day.  ‘I have had a prefect day ‘ she replied and when I get back and snuggle into bed with my lovely husband, it really will be The Perfect Day.’ She then went on to tell someone that she had a terminal illness and that she would be dead within 6 months. She hoped that a few friends and family would come to her funeral and afterwards that they would all go out and have a Perfect a Day as this had been. You can’t ask for much more than that.

 

Wednesday 10th August

This week has been taken up by the Olympics and the cricket. Robert and I took ourselves to Edgbaston at the last minute to see the fantastic last day of the Test against Pakistan. I love watching young athletes competing at the top of their game and yes, I often cry with them when they win their medals – it must be such an emotional reward for all their hours of hard work.

I did therefore feel a little guilty on arriving at Mums today, armed with chocolate cake and almond slices, intent on watching the Olympic cycling time trials. I did ask her if she wanted to go out for lunch and when she said she didn’t mind I must confess I was pleased that she didn’t mind  watching the Olympics  although Robert was less than happy! ( he is not a fan of the Olympics and would much rather have gone out for lunch!)

She chatted away to her ‘Mother’ for most of the afternoon stopping to do the crossword with us and eat her  cakes. She and her Mum were not getting on very well today and kept on having quite heated arguments!

One of her favourite carers arrived after lunch and persuaded the chiropodist to come in and cut her toenails ( she has not had them cut for 4 months as she has refused to see him) so this was a pretty big achievement!

This week I went to visit an elderly gentleman in our village who lives by himself and gets very lonely. He always invites me in for a sherry and we often do jigsaws together. He is very sharp of mind but his body is now beginning to let him down and he has had a number of falls recently which has taken away some of his confidence. He is still driving at 93 and still does his own garden with the help of a gardener which is beautiful. I was very saddened to hear him confess to me something that Mum had said last week – he told me that he now hoped that when he went to bed at night he hoped that he wouldn’t wake up in the morning. He has had a great life, has travelled the world and has a grown up family who have taken over his farm but he now feels that it is time to go.

I tried to jolly him along and promised myself that I would make more of an effort to visit him more often. It is no fun growing old.

 

Wednesday August 3rd

Not a great day today. By the time we had arrived at Mum’s care home, England had lost 3 wickets against Pakistan in the first morning of the Edgbaston test!  Mum was fast asleep in bed and her room reeked of urine. Her commode was full and had not been emptied. One of her carers arrived shortly after us and woke her up to give her her paracetamol ( the only drug she takes!) and kindly emptied the commode. Mum grinned at us and aknowledged our presence. I asked her why she was still in bed at 13 15 in the afternoon  and she informed me that she had had a very late night as the mini bus they had been traveling in had broken down! I asked her where she had been and she replied that she had been away on holiday to a really awful place for a week. She could not remember the name of the place or anything about it other than the fact that the hotel was dreadful and that there was only one shop in the village!

One of her carers brought in her lunch which she refused initially saying she wasn’t hungry. I persuaded her to eat a couple of mouthfuls but she didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat any more. I noticed that she has once again lost her lower dentures which I looked for but couldn’t find them.

We told her about our week and our visit to the T20 cricket and informed her that England had already lost 3 wickets in the test and that Alistair Cooke was already out. Rather surprisingly she informed us that he had done much better in the last one which was true!

We all then sat and did the crossword whilst she lay in bed and she came up with some rather spectacular answers! She then said that she was very tired and wanted to go back to sleep so we left her in bed and went off to the pub for a late lunch.

Robert had his usual and I had the lobster bisque which was wonderful and we spent the next two hours chatting to the locum chef who was filling in whilst Darren was away. Charlie hailed from St Lucia but had been born in Corby where he had lived until the age of 6 before moving to the East End of London. He had worked with many famous chefs including Marco Pierre White for nearly 17 years who he clearly loved! He was full of interesting stories and before we knew it, it was 17 30!

We returned to see Mum who was still in bed and had only just woken up. I gave her some chocolates and port which she enjoyed and then she drifted off into her own little world chatting away to her mother.

I did wonder if she might have another UTI and asked her carers if they could test her urine later.

I have just completed a very interesting course on line with Future learn. The course was mainly about unusual forms of dementia and was made up of 4 x 2hourly weekly interactive sessions. It was very informative and talked about Lewy Body Dementia as well as other rarer forms such as posteror cortical atrophy which I had never heard of. It was run by UCL. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in dementia whether you be a carer , relative, patient or just want to know more about the different types of dementia.

Wednesday 27th July

A surprisingly warm and sunny day despite forecasts of clouds and rain. Mum was up and dressed in her chair in her room finishing her lunch when we arrived and readily agreed to join us for a trip to Hillers garden centre for cake and coffee. I offered her the daily paper I had bought on the way but she declined it saying ‘ she did not want to read any more bad things in the world’.

I then put some make up on her face and we all tackled the daily crossword together. Sadly Robert fell asleep ( once again!- I am beginning to think he may have narcolepsy) but Mum and I managed to finish it in double quick time.

One of her carers arrived and was surprised to hear that we were going out as she had been very worried in the morning as she had found it very difficult to wake Mum up and said that she had looked very pale.

We managed to get Mum into her wheelchair, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as she finds it very hard to stand up and managed somehow with a lot of laughter to get her into the front seat of the car!

She chatted quite loudly to her self all the way there, she tends to ramble from one subject to another but here is a taster of her conversation:

Joan 1:I don’t think we are going the right way.

Joan 2: No you are wrong, this is the right way.

Joan 1: How do you know?

Joan2: Because I recognise the houses.

Joan1 : Oh is that how you do it. I tend to look at the gardens.

Joan 2 : Oh, do you Joan? I wondered how you did it. But it isn’t easy to see the gardens.

Joan1: Well yes. I suppose you’re right, it isn’t very easy.

Joan 2: Did you know we are going to buy a house called ‘The Little Curiosity Shop’

Joan 1: No, I didn’t . Where will it be?

Joan2: In Rubery somewhere.

This continued until we arrived at the garden centre and more or less continued all the way round. Sadly, the flowers were not at their best and all looked in need of a jolly good soaking but there were plenty of holly hocks in an assortment of colours.

Mum loved looking at all the flowers and said to us ‘You know when I lie in bed at night in my room, I think about all of these flowers and it makes me feel very happy.’ I could have cried.

We managed to find a table outside protected from the sun by an umbrella and Mum and I enjoyed a glass of Pimms. Mum had her usual coffee and walnut cake and I had a delicious butterred teacake whilst Robert ate a huge coronation chicken baguette.

Mum told us about how she was opening up a shop in Rubery and was going to sell everything but not food. I asked her if at 88 she didn’t feel a bit too old to open a shop. ‘I’m over 21′ she said’ and I can stay on my feet all day if needed!’

We managed with much effort to get her back into the car and returned her home. Unfortunately we had a bit of a job getting her back into her chair as somehow both her legs gave way and she nearly landed on the floor, screaming very loudly as she did so. After we had calmed her down and said our goodbyes she replied ‘ Thank you both for such a lovely day , I have really enjoyed myself.’ I nearly cried again.

 

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing- Friday 22nd July

I have just returned from a wonderful production of Shakespeare’s  ‘Much Ado about nothing’ at Coughton Court by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It was a lovely warm evening and for once the rain stayed away. I met my sister at Coughton Court which is only a 15 minute drive away from Mum’s care home so had decided to spend a few hours with Mum in the afternoon.

I arrived just after 3 00pm to find her sitting in her chair in her room chatting away to an imaginary friend sitting to the left of her. ‘Where have you come from?’ she asked glancing in my direction and ‘how did you know I’d be here? I am only visiting you know, i don’t live here anymore.’ I told her that I had come from home and that I knew she would be here. She then went on to tell me that they were off to a big festival in Bromsgrove shortly and asked me if I wanted to join them. I replied that I had come all this way to see her and not to go to a festival and informed her that I was going to Coughton Court to see Much Ado About Nothing with Jude this evening. ‘ Oh , in that case I won’t go to the festival then.’ She had remembered that we were going to Coughton Court as Jude had told her yesterday. Later on she was chatting away to her ‘imaginary friend’ who I think was also called Joan and they were discussing the price of tickets they had bought;

Mum – £50! that seems very expensive Joan.

Joan – No , you silly, not 50 pounds but 50 pence.

Mum – Oh, I see, that sounds much better.

Me – What are you going to see?

Mum – the same as you dear – tonight at Coughton Court.

Me – well your tickets were very cheap. I paid £15 pounds for ours.

Mum ( laughing) – I think we got the servants tickets!!

I persuaded  her to let me clean her teeth which have been looking pretty bad recently and managed to get her to use some mouth wash. We then did her chair exercises and attempted to do a crossword but neither of us were very good.

She then slipped back into her own world for the next 2 hours with almost continuous chat to her various ‘ friends’ who were all sitting to her left. It is interesting to hear her do all parts of the conversations!  I attempted to break in to the conversation occasionally but felt I was interrupting! Subjects ranged from Fran Gossage who now works in a dress shop, to a trip to the dentist and to finding a new husband at the rugby club! I did ask if she thought she might be a little old to find a man at the rugby club and she replied ‘ you would be surprised how many women find husbands at the rugby club!’

One of her ‘friends’ told her she was becoming a bit ‘arty farty! Mum looked round her room and replied ‘ just because I have a few flower arrangements!’

I watched the Tour de France on the TV whilst she chatted away until it was time to go at 6 00pm.

‘I’ll meet you there’ she said ‘I’m going by bus as the parking will be really bad around Coughton Court!’

 

Sunday 17th July

Summer has finally arrived. We decided to see if we could persuade Mum to come out for Sunday lunch with us as she hasn’t been out for a while. I rang earlier in the day and was informed by one of her carers that she had already refused to get out of bed but that she would try and get her ready for our arrival. We were therefore pleasantly surprised to find her dressed and awaiting our arrival in her wheelchair downstairs in the residents’ lounge.

We managed to get her into the car with some difficulty and drove down the road to the pub. During the short journey and our arrival in the car park she had a very heated argument with her Mother about whether or not she had been a good daughter or Mother!  We managed to get her into the pub and sat her down at a table near the window. We were all studying the menu when she suddenly announced that ‘she hated it here and wanted to go home!’ I remonstrated with her and told her that she normally loved coming here to which she replied ‘ it’s not me, but my Mother talking!’ I then pretended to tell her mother (my late grandmother) that she should not say such things and that she should go home if she didn’t like it! Mum laughed and settled down. For the next two hours she was on her best behavior and ate an enormous plate of roast beef, yorkshire pud and lovely vegetables before tucking into a large bowl of strawberries and clotted cream.

On the way back she announced that she ‘never wanted to go out with us again as one of the women in the pub had been saying unkind things about her ‘( this was not true). I calmed her down and after a little while she told Robert that she had had a lovely time.

We returned her back to her room where she chatted away to herself for the next 1-2 hours whilst we watched the TV. Interestingly we were watching the Davies cup tennis match when she informed us that Andy Murray was not playing because of injury! In fact he wasn’t playing but I do not know how she knew that!

She suddenly turned to me and said ‘ Angela , I’ve just heard that my mother has had a very bad stroke and is in hospital. Do you think we should go and see her?’ I told her we would take her in the morning but she felt that she might well die before then. I informed her that there was nothing we could do for her if that was the case and she agreed to visit her tomorrow.

‘it is awful ‘ she said ‘that so many bad things seem to happen.’ Judging by the state of the world at the moment I couldn’t have agreed more!

Wednesday 13th July

It has been nearly 2 weeks since I last visited Mum as we have been on holiday to Tuscany. Robert was not feeling well so I drove over on my own armed with my laptop full of holiday photos to show her.

It has also been a momentous day in politics with Mr Cameron our prime minister resigning and Mrs May taking over the rather onerous task!

Mum was sitting in her chair finishing lunch when I arrived and looked up as I entered the room and gave me a large beaming smile. ‘Have you been here long? she asked. I reminded her that we had been away on holiday in Italy and asked her if she was aware that we were getting a new prime minister today. She nodded and said ‘ and she is a lady’. She was not very happy about this and stated that a man should always be in charge! Later on whilst we were watching Theresa May outside of number 10 she declared that she had no idea that it was that prime minster that we were talking about!

I persuaded her to do her arm chair excercises with me, following which we tackled the crossword. She started off well and came up with a number of answers fairly easily but after a while couldn’t quite grasp the clues which I had to repeat several times before she understood them.

We then had a look at all of the holiday slides on my laptop. She recognised some of Florence and the leaning tower of Pisa which she remembered falling down in front of when she visited it with Dad many years ago. However she repeatedly asked me who the two children were in the photos and I explained   several times that they were children of friends we had met in Australia.

We were interrupted by a lady who had bought her ‘pat dog’ round to visit and Mum chatted to her and patted her lovely dog. After this, I painted her nails and we watched the TV which was following developments at number 10.

After about an hour Mum started talking to ‘her mother’ telling her that she had seen her on TV last night on one of the funniest programmes in which she was wearing a long black coat and hat. She then went on to tell her about how she had been living in a hole in the ground for some time.’The worst part was that she had no postal address so she did not receive any mail for years!’  The conversation drifted on about holes in the ground, houses and homes and she told her that now she was living in Worcester she had a 6 hour train journey every night and she could not cope with it any more. She then went on to discuss her up coming wedding to a very old man tonight. She said that he was in his 90s and very old and wrinkled and that she wished she had never said yes when he had asked her to marry him as he was far too old and that she would have to lock the bedroom door as she did not want to see his old face in bed with her. She told her mother that she was going to be called Mrs Springfield but her mother said ‘no, he would never allow that – you will be known as Mr Springfield and his wife!’

She continued to chat away to herself and did not seem to be aware of my presence so I kissed her goodbye and promised to see her again next week.