Sunday, 6 December 2015

Mum's dementia worsens all of a sudden

I was up early and on the road before 9.30am this morning to go up to the nursing home to see mum, because my cousin and his family were coming for a visit there. When I arrived at the first floor I saw mum with her walker looking a bit lost. She recognised me but the first thing she said was, "I don't know where I am or what's been going on."

I told her that she was in the nursing home and that she had been living there for just on a year. This was the first time mum had voiced a similar feeling while inside the nursing home, so I can assume that the recent hospitalisation for treatment of an infection has had a lasting impact on her. We sat down near the elevator. "I still don't know where I am," said mum. I repeated what I had said about our whereabouts. "Am I alright?" she asked. I said that the reason she forgot things is that she had dementia and that it seemed to have gotten worse because she had been in the hospital recently.

"Doesn't mean I'm gaga," she said. I said that that was right, it was just that she had dementia, a brain disease. "I've lived for a year but I don't know who I am," she said to me then. We got up then and headed back to mum's room. Her room is a fair distance from the elevators and the nurse station on the first floor. When we got to her room I told her she should go to the toilet. "Where's the toilet?" she asked. I showed her where it was - another first - and left the room, hoping to talk with someone from the nursing staff. I went back up to the nurse's station and told a nurse I saw there about mum's deteriorating memory.

I had worried about this kind of thing happening to mum once we left the hospital, even when she was still there on this most recent occasion. But even though she seemed at a loss as to her exact whereabouts it seems that she is not fretting in the same way she had recently fretted while she was in the hospital. On her final day before discharge she had been kept in bed by raising the side rails because there was a danger she might hurt herself. The staff had also medicated her with a sedative in order to keep her calm. But once she had returned to the nursing home that kind of behaviour had entirely disappeared and the sedative was not necessary any more. I took these things to mean that she was comfortable in her normal surroundings, inside the nursing home.

When my cousin and his family arrived mum was happy and talkative, as she always is when she has visitors. She seemed quite normal, but I knew that once we had left she would once again slide back into the dim region she often inhabits, where things are not always immediately recognisable. In that place you can even lose your own name. Thankfully, mum still recognises me and her other son. But I think that it's a matter of time before we, too, will dip below the surface of that calm waterway she seems to live in, the river of blindness and forgetting, and she will lose sight of us as well. And down there we will become just dark shadows slipping by in the blue, illuminated perhaps from above.

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