Dear Dementia Diary
For the past few years I have had a very active fantasy life. Stay with me. It’s nothing sordid.
I am addicted to cooking programmes, which is bad enough, but gardening programmes fill me with such joy and despair – bit like being in love really – that it keeps me going. I love BBC iPlayer because it has been a means of escape for mental health’s sake.
I like my garden now when once I used to love it. The problem is that the rabbits infesting the fields surrounding the house love my garden more. The picture of my greenhouse full of germinated plants I showed Mam last night is causing concern. I seem to have the knack for germinating and then potting on successfully, but I dare not put them outside.
I reckon that if there was a local horticultural prize for best Garden-On-A-Wall then I surely would have won it by now.
Do you know that sense of buzzing through all your body when you are bone tired? My late sister-in-law used to say that she knew she was going down with flu when her hair hurt.
Each evening that my brother goes to see Mam in her dementia care home is an evening of depression and unfulfilled ambition. I sort of got some work done in my putative cottage garden this evening. I still dare not put out any plants from the greenhouse; however, there was plenty of weeding to do.
I pulled up a few of the desiccated nasturtium plants from last year and left the seed where they had fallen to hopefully germinate and bloom wantonly, as is their way. I couldn’t find the beautiful dahlia and worried that the grasses I grew from seed last year have swamped and killed it. I would like to have taken some basal cuttings from it to generate free plants like Monty Don showed me.
I admit that I have placed the greenhouse in the wrong place. I constructed it in Spring and did not consider that the leafless trees above it would be a problem later. Shows how a distracted mind works – the ability abstract and project has become a stranger. The sycamores are now beginning to produce fresh green leaves that will soon block out the growing light and sunshine. There really was nowhere else to put it even if I had thought the process through.
The soil in the garden patch is very poor because I haven’t been able to feed it for years. I used to pile seaweed on it. That was when Mam was reasonably okay and I would take her out for a bit of four-wheel psychology and visit beaches.
I wonder how things are this evening among the dementia patients. As a rule, I don’t phone my brother in case he thinks I’m checking up on him. Sometimes it is the case, but less and less so these days. I know that he is finding Mam’s circumstances and the deterioration caused by the vascular dementia (or is it mixed dementia) distressing enough.
I want to call to see how Mam is. And then I don’t, I tend to stick with no news is good news because we both know that she will have had a horrible day shouting and walking up and down the corridors to the point of exhaustion looking for some One or some Thing.
Put this in a television drama and I’m sure that many people would it find funny; a group of elderly ladies suffering from all types of dementia chasing each other in convoy up and down a long corridor all day calling out. I don’t.
It breaks my heart and the very thought that Mam is doing just that while I am miles away at work. I usually get up and head for the loo or to make cups of tea for everyone. Bloody hell! I’m sure that when I’m gone that my epitaph will be:
We Will All Miss the Tea Service.
When Mike, Gerald, Michelle or June and the others in the care home are making notes of Mam’s travails they will note down that she is ‘Acting with A Purpose’.
No matter how futile an activity seems to the outsider, Mam seems to have a purpose in looking or calling out for something or someone. Gwendolen similarly with her dementia-created kleptomania. David with his moving around of furniture and efforts to bend upright fans around tables is also acting with a purpose.
All the dementia diseases are individual to the person because each of us is a collection of personal experiences and reflections; of neuroses and normality slipping over each other and back again to extremes. Each personality and identity will dissociate in a manner specific to each dementia patient. Therefore, the Purpose that is attributed to each patient is ultimately specific to that person and it is up to the dementia carers to find it and support it or distract the patient from it.
I still reckon Mary is a Mafia plant and I suspect that she has a definite purpose in mind. The trail of tripped up or pushed patients bears witness to that. Who is her real target?
Back to futile acts. Namely, my garden. My rabbit infested ‘Cottage Garden'.
The intention behind growing the grasses was to be a feature billowing in the wind. I have red Double Geums growing around and among them. The hope was that each small geum bloom would be like a twinkling start to attract the eye to what lay beyond. Looks good on Gardener’s World. Sadly, not here.
The geums have a new problem to contend with: rabbits. In weeding around the grasses and searching for any sign of the dahlia I discovered a tunnel that’s about four feet long snaking beneath the flowers and grasses. No wabbit thankfully, but I must find a way of filling it in. Now I know what the prison guards at Stalag Luft X11 felt like.
I dug it out and have a lovely winding furrow through the plants and thankfully I didn’t pull out the garden fork with a baby rabbit impaled on it and screaming. It’s always good when that doesn’t happen.
I don’t think I’ve cooked a proper meal for myself in a few years. You can guess what my diets generally like when I describe fish finger sandwiches with a salad in attendance (still in its unopened cellophane bag).
I find that when I cooked for somebody else I ate better. I can’t remember the last time I cooked for anybody else. I just pack myself up with carbohydrates and will occasionally just open a tin of tuna in sunflower oil, freckle it with pepper and marinade it for about five seconds in light soy sauce before scoffing the lot direct from the tin
I will sit in deepest depression watching the Hairy Biker’s cook up a lemon sole in a fishy white sauce and warm sweet white grapes. All the while I am dipping into a packet of crisps.
A thought keeps popping into my mind these days. I wish to fall to the ground in front of the fire, curl up into a foetal ball and just stay there forever. There are two problems with that ambition: I haven’t got the time to indulge my own weaknesses and, more importantly, I don’t make a coal fire. Not since the chimney went on fire that second time and I had to climb onto the roof to cover the chimney pot to starve the chimney fire of oxygen. At night, by the way.
In general, I feel like falling onto the carpet and staying there because my whole body and Soul feel awful. Coal fire or no coal fire.
After all the futile Purpose in the garden I didn’t feel like doing much work on my own futile projects. Did a bit to show willing and then watched the BBC iPlayer and I admit I cannot remember what I watched. Went to bed early knowing that it would be another rough day at work tomorrow.
A couple of bottles of beer and smokes kept me company as usual.
Bed at 1:45am roughly. Just cannot get to bed. I have concluded a long time ago that it is because the day feels unfinished and I have very little to show for my efforts. Very little of what I want that is. There is also the fear of what tomorrow will bring and whether I will have the strength to cope. There will come a time when I will not be able to respond.
It would be great to just stop working and retire. I am becoming forgetful myself and would sooner attribute it to just too much stress rather than think it might be one of the early signs of dementia.
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