“Do I know you?” Mum’s peering look seemed to say when I called in last week. In her eyes, I could see her trying to work out whether the smiling face in front of her had any significance at all.
That’s how it is these days.
“Does she still know you?” is the question I’m most often asked. It’s one I can’t truthfully answer. I used to say that she knows she knows me but isn’t sure why. Now I’m not certain of even that. Mum responds to a smile and as trusting as ever, she seems to accept that if I’m smiling, then I must be a friend. That will have to do.
My latest visit brought further evidence of dementia’s ever-tightening grip. Mum was sitting next to another (sleeping) resident on a sofa. I suggested we move to another part of the house. Mum smiled.
“Let’s get you up then.” Mum can’t stand without help these days. She continued to smile. I encouraged her to stand and manoeuvred myself into position to help her. Still she smiled, offering no help in my attempts to help her. Standing up no longer holds any meaning.
Eventually, with the help of one of the staff, Mum was on her feet and we shuffled across the room to a table and two chairs.
“Sit there Mum.”
Again the uncomprehending smile. If standing up means nothing, why should she respond to a suggestion to sit? Silly me. Another carer came to my aid.
“Sit there Janice,” she said, positioning Mum by the chair. A laugh, but no move. This stand-off probably lasted no more than a minute but seemed much, much longer. In the end, we gently eased her down into the chair.
The first time a baby stands or sit on his of her own seems like a breakthrough. The young child is gaining independence of movement. It’s an independence I can only dream of for Mum.
The simplest things are now, it seems, beyond her.