Monthly Archives: March 2018

Some days are diamonds

What a lovely day today. I had lunch with a dear sweet friend who always makes me feel comfort and a calm joy.

Then toddled over to the care home where we met with Don’s son and his wife. Things were a bit uncertain at first, Don in a bit of a vague mood. He would have been perfectly happy to sit on a bench in the ward and snooze holding my hand.

But then magic started to happen. A musical group including a caregiver friend of mine set up in the lobby and we had an hour of singalong. And of course, Himself started dancing, to the encouragement of the band. He danced and got me up and dancing — I no longer care what it looks like, I only seek that happy smile on his face when we lift our arms up together, or when he murmers, “You are so beautiful today.”

Our family had a good time, the audience enjoyed the music, and I think the musicians did too.

At the end, more magic. Don turned and looked at his son,  and said “Wait, is that… ? …Well I’ll be damned!” Breaking into a huge grin with a big hug of joy and happiness to see him.

Shortly after, the realisation was lost again, but once more regained – another moment of joy – before we said goodbye.

A clear demonstration of the power of music and dancing to re-activate the ailing brain.

And to give us a happy day.


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What is it?

It was a lovely day. Sun was out, real spring is just around the corner, I had had a good sleep albeit with slightly foreboding dreams and visits from family beyond the veil.

Nonetheless after a few good meetings with friends, there was a bounce in my step as I went through the coded doors,  used sanitiser on my hands (because why play roulette with flu?) and entered the ward.

“He’s still at the table,” someone nodded, although it was closer to lunch than breakfast.

And so he was. Just sitting. Occasionally squinting and reading out letters he was imaginary seeing, “9, V, 70, x….” but there was nothing to see and no, no sense in it at all.

“Hello,” I kiss him gently, calling his attention to me, and eventually he turns. Looks with moderate interest.  “Who are you?” he wonders.

I tell him but it makes no sense. He goes back to staring and  wandering. He has had his bath today and was happy, they tell me.  A welcome change from weeks of fear and resistance. Now he sits.

“But where is she?” he asks,  over and over,  murmuring, occasionally touching my cheek, “So beautiful…. where is she? I don’t know.”

Suddenly, unexpectedly – we have been in so many similar places so many times – the knife turns again in my heart and i cannot bear it. Cannot be stoic.

Why now can I not still the pain which brings tears, no matter how I try to stop? My heart twists and breaks again and again. There is no away from it.

.As I weep,  cry,  bawl, ashamed,  in the middle of the dining room, the staff brings me comfort and understanding and tissues and tea and hugs.

The other residents don’t notice or don’t mind. Nor does he,  except to consider me carefully. They all have their own worlds.

I leave, as he stares with some interest at his lunch soup, and then sit howling in the car.

There is no charity, no comfort in this dreadful epidemic. And I have been drained of all my courage.




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The Village mourns

We have lost several people at the care home so far this winter — a quarter of the small population in Don’s dementia ward in just 10 weeks. No flu closure, thanks to vigilance and luck, but winter is always a bad time for elders. The pattern of a fall, a broken hip, and then within a short time refusal to eat or drink, is frequent.

Because we, residents, staff and visiting family, see each other often, it is like a village, and a death shakes the whole ward. One can tell when one walks in – there is a sombre mood, quieter voices, sometimes a red or weepy eye — a bed in the hallway and a room with no name on the door, being painted. We are all bound in this together, and gently grieve.

The staff know our loved ones so well, and by and large are able to do this difficult job because they are caring people and fond of the people they are looking after. They are affected by this grim aspect of their job and the situation. It must be very stressful, and I think it takes special people to help the dying, day in and day out, especially the difficult ones with dementia. These are the care workers in the midst of a modern, far-too-hidden epidemic. They don’t get the accolades on TV for fighting a new plague, but their job, grim and tedious, is just as heroic.

A new patient will be along in just 24 hours because the need for beds is so great. You know, and they know, that when a new patient comes in  – no matter how well they walk or talk – and many of them are still reading at a simple level – the same end is now inevitable.

Dementia is not curable, is degenerative, and always fatal.

Nonetheless we carry on. We the family members who visit, miss the ones who no longer come. The staff avoids emotion because the one skill these residents retain is emotional sensitivity.  Once upon a time, last year when my love was better, they carried a body out through the ward. Don and his friend freaked out — deciding that they were being held in the ward to be killed and eaten. They staged a mini riot, tore papers off the walls, overturned a laundry cart. And who can blame them?

But now my love talks only in made up words – syllables that sound like words but aren’t – except when he pauses, with a puzzled look, stares off for a long time and says, “I don’t know….I don’t know.”



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