Looking at me but not Seeing me

I led a Dementia Friends awareness session in Rugby this morning and among the many questions asked and points made was one about the effect dementia has on loved ones:

“It must be very difficult,” the questioner asked, “for you when you don’t have any common ground with your mum?”

Well it is, I explained in reply, but Mum and I laugh a lot, we hold hands, and she still recognises me which is the most important thing.

After leaving Rugby, I headed over to see Mum. The door was opened by a new member of staff who didn’t know whom I was here to see. Why should she? The person who lets me in normally goes over to Mum to tell her she has a visitor:

“Duncan’s here, Jan” or “There’s a strange man to see you.”

Today, I was left to find Mum for myself and I spotted her on the far side of the room. I smiled but she looked straight through me and away. No recognition. I continued walking towards her, smiling as I did so. When I was close, she responded to my smile but seemed a little uncertain. It was bright, spring-like afternoon but I felt a distinct chill. One day, perhaps one day soon, Mum will look through me and might not respond to my smile at all. For a few moments, we seemed further apart than ever.

Fortunately, our faithful playlist restored a link and we sang a few songs together but Mum’s attention drifted.

So, if I were to answer the question from the Dementia Friends sessions again, I’d probably say a little more about those moments when we seem complete strangers. When Mum looks at me, but doesn’t see the son who loves her.

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