I went to see Mum on Monday this week. She smiled broadly when I arrived – that smile is just a flash of old Mum – but she seemed more disconnected from me than last time. I’m not even sure she knows I’m her son any more. She introduces me as “family” or even “old family”. I have to prepare myself for the time when even that level of recognition no longer exists. It’s a sobering thought and not one on which I care to dwell for the time being.
As usual, the visit left me feeling a little inadequate. Surely, I can do something to reach her. I’m currently taking an online course in dementia care as part of my role as a voluntary campaigner with the Alzheimer’s Society. I’m trying to apply some of my learning to my visits but accessing Mum’s bank of memories often seems impossible these days. It feels as if I’m forever entering the wrong four digit code. I try to prompt her about family holidays and special occasions, events from which she always took such joy and in which she played such a prominent part. It saddens me so much that those memories don’t seem to exist for her any more and again, I question how much Mum takes from seeing me.
Today, though, came something to give me a good shake. I had lunch with a friend. We know each other professionally for the most part but as we chatted about ourselves, the subject of family relationships came up. I recalled wonderfully happy times, the sort of times which not everyone is fortunate enough to have enjoyed. Those memories will sustain me. The memories of care home visits in 2012 might not hold the same value for either of us but Mum still means more to me than she could possibly understand. And that’s why I’ll continue to visit her as long as I can.