Updated: Jan 24, 2019
OK, I’ve been slightly misleading about what this blog is about but I’ll explain. Picture the scene: a care-home at Christmas, in the dining room, with seven or eight medium sized tables. Seated around the tables are roughly six or seven people ranging from the ages of 70 plus to 98 (all are sporting a Christmas hat). Mum and I are sitting with Grandma Caltieri (who has now unfortunately got Vascular Dementia). I’m sitting next to a lovely lady called Dorothy who used to ride a motorbike (she’s 98). “Mum, let’s get a lovely photo of everyone shall we?” I take a few snaps around our table, then Mum (who looks like butter wouldn’t melt whilst she’s rattling out complicated Bach and Beethoven numbers on her piano), suddenly grabs the camera from me and says “here, give it to me I’m going to take one of the whole room.”
Being a teacher, she pretty quickly gets everybody’s attention to look at the camera and smile. To my dismay she then says to everybody “Right, you must all shout SEEEEXXXXX!!! If you say CHEEEESE, your mouth looks odd if the camera catches you in the middle of the “ch” on the photo. Deadly silence. A couple of folk who were hard of hearing whispered “What did she say we had to say?” Dorothy next to me asked too…”Er... sex" I replied. In the next instance, the entire room of elderly people kept shouting “SEEEEXXXXX”. And were roaring with laughter, there was some excitable muttering and Dorothy turned to me and said “Ooooohh me mind’s on all sorts now.” “You just concentrate on your turkey Dorothy” I replied, nearly choking on my veg.....I don’t think the staff looked too happy as they were wheeling in various drinks on their trolleys! Funnily enough, that was one of the most enjoyable Christmases I’ve had. Hearing so many stories around the table of so many people’s life adventures...
After speaking with lots of different people, it seems like dementia hits families more than I’d realised. And I had no comprehension of just what care-home staff had to manage on a day to day basis until we moved Grandma into a more permanent place as sadly, the dementia is very bad now. It has been difficult for the whole family and her friends to see the person we once knew, an independent soul who taught dozens of kids, walked in the Yorkshire Dales, gave and did so much for charities now become a shadow of her former self. She seems like she knows what she is doing in her own little world though and possibly worse for those observing it...
This Christmas, we went to visit her and we walked in to find her lying on her bed clutching something for dear life. I tried to see what she was nursing in her hand after her Christmas dinner. “No!” she shouted. She thought I was going to confiscate whatever she was holding in her hand. When I inspected it more closely, I saw that it was a shortbread finger she was nursing in a napkin and holding very tightly like a teddy bear....my Mum has also found items in her walker taken from other people in the home.....glasses, Christmas cards, jewellery, pens, and most recently, mum discovered that she had been stashing chocolates in her drawers so it looked like she didn’t have any and people would bring more. Tons of them. When asked about it all, she just looks at Mum and says “I didn’t do it.” And looks so sweet. Dementia eh hmm...?
And then there’s Matthew, another resident (one of Grandma’s friends)...well....he actually tricked (or did he?) Mum into making her think he had no friends or family. One day when mum was leaving, she gave Grandma a hug and said goodbye. Matthew announced that he wished he could have someone to cuddle him as he had nobody...my Mum instantly got up and hugged him saying “I’ll always give you a hug Matthew.” He beamed with a big smile. Mum continued with the hugs on a weekly basis until one day she was about to go to Matthew’s room to give him his hug, walked in and found an entire family and all his friends with him!! “Erm....I thought you didn’t have anybody Matthew? Have you been tricking all these hugs out of me?”
“What hugs?”. Matthew responded, a cheeky grim on his face.