I had a glimpse of the old Mum today. When I walked into the dining room, where she was sitting, her face lit up:
“Oh look who it is.”
My heart leapt. Not only did Mum recognise my face but she seemed genuinely pleased to see me, as pleased as I was to see her. But dementia is a real s*d. Mum’s cousin, Pam, is in hospital at the moment. When I told Mum this last week, her face showed recognition of Pam’s name and real concern. I told her again today – nothing. She seemed to have no idea whom I was talking about or even what being in hospital meant. Minutes earlier, Mum had seemed brighter and more alert than at any time recently. Now, there was little or no connection.
Not for the first time, music saved me. Mum might not recognise her cousin, a woman she’s known for early 80 years, but she knows the chorus to Che Sera Sera and gave Doris Day a singing run for her money.
One of the first things I learned about dementia was that when you’ve met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia. No two people living with the disease are the same. Today, that fact was pressed home to me again. A lady who’s been in the care home longer than Mum (nearly six years and counting) popped in to see us three times in about ten minutes, each time expressing surprise to find us in the small sitting room. She and Mum laughed, and then this lady said she wanted to check whether I was a woman or a man. Not a question I’m often asked.
Then there was another resident who was having one of those days. Her language was rather industrial. In fact, it was a the linguistic equivalent of a full industrial estate.
Three women. Three very different manifestations of dementia. Whatever will be, will be. The future certainly isn’t for us to see.