It was time for Mum’s six-monthly check-up at the hospital yesterday. Twice a year, I’ve been taking Mum to see first the consultant and now the nurse in adult mental health services. That title in itself is off-putting and it isn’t something I’ve shared with Mum.
Mum no longer sees the consultant. Her condition is stable if deteriorating and yesterday we saw one of the nursing team. The evaluation takes the form of a test. It’s the same test every six months, although some of the answers to the questions – for example which month are we in – do change obviously. Some questions and tasks in the test remain exactly the same however. If Mum could remember, she’d score almost maximum points but I guess that’s the point – she can’t remember what she said two minutes ago so some random questions she heard half a year ago will long since have left her mind. Until yesterday, Mum had scored relatively well but her mark yesterday was significantly reduced. In fact, she struggled with even the most basic questions. Now, some of that is undoubtedly to do with the fact that she’s now in a care home and every day must seem exactly the same. In short, she doesn’t need to think for herself and so she doesn’t. It was still a very uncomfortable experience though. I felt like a parent sitting next to a small child taking an entrance exam. When Mum, who’d insisted on wearing her thickest coat over a fleece, answered the question about the season of the year by declaring it must be summer, I couldn’t look at her. Mum scored just enough to stay on the dementia medication but the evidence suggested it’s not really working any more.
Later, I took Mum back to the care home where the questions continued. It was her “Review”, a chance to look again at Mum’s care plan and to assess her place in the home. From the exam room, we’d moved on to a parents’ evening. The young care home assistant, for whom it was only the second such review, asked a series of questions to Mum and then to me. “How did Mum feel about being in the home?” “What did Mum like doing?””How did Mum seem to me?” When I answered that she seemed more confused and less able to concentrate – make that almost totally unable to concentrate – I felt like I was telling tales. Mum looked me with a neutral look on her face. I had no idea whether she felt I was betraying her or whether she even understood what I was talking about. One of the senior members of staff reported that Mum joined in with everything and was very active. The assistant produced a form which recorded our responses and which we all signed. To continue the schooling analogy, this was Mum’s end of term of report. It reinforced in me just how completely our roles have reversed.
We had lunch – with rose petals scattered over the table to mark Valentine’s Day and then I left so Mum could return to be with her new friends. I paused at the gate to look back but Mum had disappeared inside. I was already out of her mind.