Thursday, 28 May 2015

When I see mum at the nursing home I feel needed

Today again there was a phone call early in the morning, probably at around 7.30am, from staff at the nursing home. This time the news was that my mother had fallen in the early hours of the morning as she was getting off the toilet. They found her on the floor in her room calling for help at around 5am. So although her red and puffy eyes have gotten better since I saw her last time two days ago it was a mum with a sore-looking bandaged wrist that I saw when I went up the motorway today to visit the nursing home.

We went out to the park after mum had been showered and dressed, and sat in the sun. I talked to her about the book I'm reading at the moment, which is a biography of William Dobell, the Australian mid-century painter. I asked mum about her memories of this man. Mum told me she finished school when she was 16 or 17 and then went full-time for two years to art school, in fact Swinburne Tech. Dobell's famous court case - which I am reading about at the moment - when the trustees of the National Gallery of New South Wales were taken to court because of his prize-winning entry, is something that mum knows about first-hand because she would have been at tech in the mid- to late-40s when it was still a current issue in the community. Dobell won the Archibald prize for his portrait of Joshua Smith in 1943, so the event would have been recent when mum was studying drawing.

I explained to mum my particular interest in the court case because of the way it illustrated Australian attitudes toward modernity. She said that Dobell "was considered avantgarde" but when pressed couldn't remember much else. I asked her how people thought of the avantgarde in those days and she failed to come up with anything. She did think that the whole affair - which Dobell found so trying that he left Sydney permanently when it was over and relocated to a small town near Newcastle, the city he had been born in - was unnecessary. I left it at that.

That conversation took place while mum and I were sitting in the park this morning. After a while the sun became a bit hot for her so we went inside and she slept for 45 minutes or so. Then we went to lunch and sat with H as we often do. H explained how she had been poked in the eye by a staff member this morning while she was being bathed. "It frightened me," she said. I didn't tell her that I had heard her swearing at the staff this morning while I was outside on the chair in the hallway waiting for mum to get out of the shower.

I talked with mum's neighbour while I was sitting on that chair. She is a friendly woman who always fills me in on major events in mum's life that I might have missed because I was not around or because they were not important enough for staff to inform me directly. Mum usually forgets things, even important ones, as she forgot for example by lunchtime how she had fallen over early this morning. We talked about it with H, who was solicitous during the meal, asking mum if it hurt. It's funny what mum will remember and what she forgets. I just telephoned mum a little while ago after coming home after lunch this afternoon. She was on her way to the toilet. "I have to get someone to help me go," she told me. "And I'm waiting for someone to come by so I can grab them." "Why don't you use the nurse call button?" I ventured. "That's a good idea," said mum. 


Anonymous said...

Hello Matthew. I used to follow your blog years ago, and it was only when I was tidying up the links on my own blog today that I thought to 'drop in' on you. I'm sorry to see that your mother is in a nursing home. My mother (who died four years ago) was also in a nursing home with dementia. It's a strange situation- it takes up so much of your life, and every day there seems very much the same as the next even as a visitor (even more so if you're living there I should imagine). Hold on to every bit of interaction with your mum- even when she's complaining or repeating herself- because abilities are lost so gradually that you only notice it in retrospect. Best wishes. Janine

Matthew da Silva said...

Thanks Janine. I go up to see mum as often as I can, usually every 2 or 3 days. Best wishes.