Monday, July 12, 2010

silver lining

Is it wrong for my to sneakingly think that the best part of my visits "home" is leaving?

Actually this thought is about addiction, not people or place. More correctly the best thing about leaving Wellington is the free wifi at the airport. It's just a pity other transport hubs are not as generous. I've been without any access to the internet for a few days and have gone into slight withdrawals.

It has been another emotive and a tad isolating trip. Today before lunch and being dropped at the airport my father and I went for a tour of a brand new dementia unit a couple of suburbs away from where they live. The place was light and warm, with a lot of forethought put into layout. The unit is purpose built, though the main doors are locked to deter wandering, there is a lovely courtyard complete with garden the residents can help with and a glass atrium. The staff were lovely. The rooms are fine. The place didn't smell. It's just the people. It is hard not to feel confronted by the residents. Dementia is a very challenging condition, especially when you are looking at the demise of your own parent.

Though my mother's name is now at the top of their waiting list, none of us are ready for this transition just yet. Least of all her. But there's some comforting in knowing that when the right time comes, there will be no significant time lag between making the decision to put her into care and finding a room in the best facility the city has on offer.

The days seem to pass achinginly slowly while I'm visiting home. It feels a bit like being a grounded teenager, these trips where my purpose is to provide a bit of respite for my father and sister, the expectation is that I spend most my time taking care of my mother. Often that means just sitting with her, attempting conversation or gently rubbing her back. On the weekend when there is no carer to get her up in the morning, washing and dressing can take up to 45 minutes. At night it is about cajoling her to get changed for bed, taking each item of day clothes off and put away before she spirits it to some hiding place. Once her pyjamas are on, there's a game to get her into bed, luring her with the warmth of a hot water bottle, before she starts pulling clothes on haphazardly over her nightwear.

I did manage to get a few hours off to trot around the city on an icy cold morning. After a couple of days of sitting down (hail hadn't helped) I just wanted to walk and walk and walk. I didn't want to talk. Just enjoy the luxury of my own company.

A good friend picked me up one night after I got mum into bed and transported me off for a yummy Cambodian dinner. It was delightful to do something new and have a quick catch up.

I had a lovely, though slightly surreal, chat with someone I had gone to primary school with. She was going to pop in but was sick. The call has broken the ice for when we do finally eyeball each other after a few decades with no contact.

But it'd have been nice if a few others who I couldn't get the time or transport to visit, had phoned. Though I probably just would have blabbed that I'd seen more of my mother's sad naked body in the last few days than I had in a lifetime. That washing her and taking care of her poo stained underwear was a bit more than I could deal with. That my father's frustration and surliness gets no easier to endure. So I know it's a rare friend, or sibling, that can cope with such conversations.

Sometimes the best part of a journey is leaving. Though I will be back again soon for another Groundhog Day kind of visit.

In the meantime, my withdrawal symptoms have dissappeared and I am almost ready to face the civilized world again.

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Blogger Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. Doing so (mostly) at a distance would make it easier in some ways but much harder in others.

12:30 pm  
Blogger Pixie said...

ouch! :-)

4:51 pm  
Blogger Ann ODyne said...

empathy and sympathy from another Daughter Of A Surly Old Dad.
Weekend Australian magazine had a cover feature on dementia and the children who are coping with it.

The wilful clothing ensembles is very like coping with two-year old children, and No it is not wrong to leap on the return flight with enthusiasm.

No internet for 3 days is cruel. welcome back.

7:42 pm  
Anonymous Lene said...

that sounds like one hell of a trip back and I can understand the relief at getting back to the rest of your life.

You're right, it is a very isolating experience. When my father was deteriorating with dementia and much of my conversation was around what had happened that day, releasing the stress I’d absorbed while supporting my mother through it, well… it's hard to listen to for people who haven't been there.

I remember when we finally had to admit my dad to a locked ward because it simply wasn't safe for him at home anymore. It felt like a terrible, heartbreaking thing to do and it turned out that it was the best thing we could have done for him. He had an intense need to walk, to be on the move and at home, we tried to stop him to keep him safe. Once there was no need to stop him, much of his anxiety dissipated. It was hard for us to go there, to see him in that place, but he very clearly felt better.

1:00 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Lene, that was really heartening what you said about putting your Dad in care being the best thing.

Kerryn - thanks. My sister gets a constant dribble and I get intense immersions.

Ann - when are you back looking after Mr Magoo?

7:59 am  
Blogger Ann ODyne said...

Lene - your comment was reassuring to me thank you. My Mr.Magoo age 88 has all the sense of a toddler with money and a car and is driving me nuts - there is NObody else to control him, and every Saturday without fail, even when it is 47-degrees, he drives the return journey from Rye to Reservoir, via his wife's grave at Springvale (on Eastlink and on Citylink freeways) using hands so crippled with arthritis that he reaches across his chest to change the gear with the 'best' hand. I have appealed to his quack re the driving, to no avail, but cannot trust the cops or Vicroads not to reveal to him that it was ME who sicced them onto him, so I can't do it via them.

the neighbours who love him, tell me if I stop him driving it will kill him.

AOF - the house-sit after this one, concludes on Sept 5th and I guess i will return to see how much cleaning is required at Magoos after 4 months of none (he refuses to have council help, meals on wheels, or the royal district nurse, and turns very nasty when pressed on it). Getting the seaside real estate is my only lifebuoy to cling to.

I am so conflicted I am inert.

9:45 am  

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