Monday, 22 December 2014

Health ignores the calendar

I was returning to my unit from the post box on the street when I met with a neighbour and I asked her how her holiday season was going. She surprised me by telling me that her husband, who normally lives with her in our apartment complex, had been admitted to hospital with depression. She was stoic about it and mentioned a son in Brisbane who unfortunately had just undergone a leg operation and could not come up the highway to help her.

Thinking to allay some of her bad feeling by telling her my own story I told her that I had recently admitted my mother to a nursing home and that I would be flying down to Sydney to see her at the end of the week. And because she regretted in her voice that she never had daughters I told her I had looked after my mother for five-and-a-half years during which time she was given a diagnosis of dementia.

I feel sorry for this woman because her husband is the second man in the apartment block to succumb to a mental illness - another man had been given a diagnosis of early-onset dementia - and her case reminded me how indiscriminate bodily sickness is. It may in fact be that the proximity of the annual holiday season hastened this man's depression; we all know how difficult the holidays can be for some in the community.

But I wouldn't say that this woman's story made me feel less sorry for myself, because our stories are so dissimilar. In my case, I have been working on the transition to permanent residential care for my mother for most of this year, whereas for her disease arrived in her life suddenly and unannounced.

Every day I do a little more work on tidying up my mother's apartment. Today I was shredding papers and throwing them away. I also went into the garage today for the first time with an eye to tidying up, and started looking through papers belonging to my father, who died from Alzheimer's disease in 2011, almost four years ago. Dad's papers take up a small alcove in the wall of the garage but I fear that the task of sorting through them is disproportionately large. All this tidying up and shredding makes me wish that I could leave as little as possible for my successors to comb through. Having a large number of personal effects in your estate is a troublesome thing for those who, likely as not, are trying to cope with mixed emotions at the time of relocation to permanent care or of death.

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