Dear Readers, last week I reported that my Dad had been in hospital for over a fortnight while I was on holiday. This week I rushed down to Milborne St Andrew, and Dad was at home.
The good news is that his ‘chest infection’ (actually pneumonia) is much better.
The bad news is that Dad isn’t really clear who anyone is, can’t find his way around the house, and thinks that his home is a new place that closely resembles where he used to live.
Dad: ‘That tree looks exactly the same as the one that was outside the old house’.
Mum: ‘What old house?’
Mum: ‘This is the house we’ve lived in for 16 years, love. It’s the same tree’.
Dad: ‘If you say so’.
We call out the GP, who does a memory test on Dad. Dad does much better than we expect, but still badly enough to be referred to the Memory Clinic for a diagnosis. The doctor thinks that it’s not ‘classic’ dementia but a form of confusion brought on by the effect of not getting enough oxygen to the brain over a long period of time (because of the COPD) exacerbated by his recent pneumonia. COPD is the gift that just keeps on giving, and one lesser known effect is brain damage.
The doctor doesn’t think it’s going to get any better. The unstated conclusion that I’ve come to is that it will probably get worse. There might be peaks and troughs, and Dad might gradually come to feel more confident and relaxed in his own surroundings, so I’m not catastrophising, but it’s clear that things will need to change.
The doctor thinks that the options are residential care or a live-in carer. Mum doesn’t want either, but isn’t physically strong enough to cope with Dad if he needs help getting dressed or going to the toilet. Mum and Dad have always said that they want to be together in their own home if at all possible. So we’re going to investigate the live-in carer option. We are lucky that, as a family, we can scrape together the resources to even start to consider this.
I spend ten minutes in the garden, watching the bees riding the lavender as if each sprig was a bucking bronco.
We are lucky that Dad is such a stoical man – he takes each explanation of what’s going on with a surprised and suspicious scepticism, but is happy to sit in his recliner and take things as they come. He is eating next to nothing, but can be tempted with creme caramel or anything with custard. There are long periods in the day when Mum and Dad are both snoozing peacefully away and I can get on with cooking and organising, or sitting in the garden with my camera. So often nature comes to the rescue. I am watching the bees and butterflies on the buddleia when it occurs to me that one of these things is not like the others.
I think that this might be a drone fly, a type of hoverfly that looks superficially like a honeybee and probably gets some protection as a result. The eyes give it away, though – that line between them is indicative of a fly, not a bee. And for just a few minutes I’m immersed in something that isn’t care rotas or sorting out medication.
I am stressed beyond anything I’ve known previously – I feel myself floating above some situations as if it’s not me at all. The first time I actually spoke the ‘Dementia’ word out loud I ended up crying all over the shop assistant in my local greengrocer. And yet, I also feel my heart opening. As I left on Friday I looked at Dad, with his hair all over the place like Sid Vicious, and felt such an overwhelming tenderness for him that all I could do was kiss him on the top of his head and tell him how much I loved him.
‘Love you n’all’ he said.
And I know that, whatever happens, he always will.