Dementia: ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’

On Wednesday I held the hand the hand of two people who have been very important in my life: my mum and my brother.  Mum is now in a Care Home with a diagnosis of vascular dementia.  My Brother John is in a Nursing Home with a diagnosis Alzheimer’s. Today’s post shares glimpses of Wednesday’s visit to Coventry .  The picture below was taken three years ago, when I took mum to see John in his Nursing Home.  Even at that stage of his condition he was unsure it was his mother sitting next to him.

When my daughter and I arrived at my brother’s Nursing Home he sat in the lounge, adjacent to a couple of his fellow residents.  Nan who normally walks the corridors, holding my hand, was fast asleep in her chair on his left.  A gentleman to his right lay on a trolley continually moving his legs.  Other fellow residents were on manouevers: wandering around the lounge.  Carers were strategically placed monitoring proceedings: ready to intervene if things got out of hand.

John looked clean and tidy but a shadow of the handsome man in the picure above.  It doesn’t help that his false teeth have gone missing so many times that he no longer has them in his mouth.  I encouraged Lisa to sit with him for a while, as he has always been extremely fond of his niece.  I watched from a distance as his face lit up with an attractive woman sitting holding his hand.  At my suggestion Lisa put some rock and roll music on her phone.  I’m sure he tapped his feet, and was back to jiving at the Locarno with us all trying to catch a glimpse of him on Saturday lunch-time television.

I took over from Lisa after a short while.  John looked troubled as his eyes scanned the lounge watching the antics of his fellow residents.  Very occasionally he smiled, and tried to mouth a few words.  I held his hand and tried to say something that might have meaning.

Lisa and I stayed with John for about 20 minutes.  We caught up on his welfare by chatting to staff: he had fallen twice in the last few days but paramedics had established that the consequences were not serious.  Lisa was crying as we made our way back to her car, I bit my tongue to keep control of my emotions.  We both needed a short walk before our onward journey to see mum.

We decided that it would be better for me to visit mum by myself.  Lisa had visited a few days earlier, and mum wasn’t really sure who she was.  I think mum recognised me as soon as she caught sight of my face.  I took the precaution of saying who I was, after she had been walked gingerly into the visitors lounge on the arm of a carer.  Her opening question, as always, was: ‘Have you come to take me out in the car?’.  This question was repeated several times during my visit, despite my explanation that I had travelled down by coach.

Mums hair had been washed and set earlier in the day.  When I looked at her I thought I hope I look that attractive if I make 94.  You can see what a stunner she was as a young mum in the picture opposite; with John at her side, and me on her lap.

I joked that she must have known I was coming, and had a hair do especially for me.  Mum responded with her question about going out.

It wasn’t easy to find much to say, and to my disgust we couldn’t repeat our singing session of the last time we were together: no signal to my phone!  However at one stage mum burst into song with: ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’ .  I don’t know why but I responded with: ‘What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?’

I stayed with mum for 40 minutes or so.  My hands were obviously warmer than on my last visit as mum didn’t recoil when I reached out to hold hers.  Without music we both found it a struggle to find anything to say, and mum closed her eyes on several occasions; dropping off for several minutes at a time.  As the time to catch my bus arrived it was quite a struggle to ease mum out of the chair, and help her to shuffle back to her place in the Resident’s Lounge.

Mum’s home seemed very quiet on the day of my visit.  Carers were busy attending to the personal needs of residents.  Some familar faces were not around.  Joyce who normally has much to say sat quietly in her chair.  Mrs A, now over a hundred, normally has a flirtatious word  was not in her seat.

My travel home was arduous, with delays leading to the journey taking much longer than it ever had before.  It made me think of taking the car next time and being able to say : ‘yes mum I’m going to take you out today’.

When I arrived home at 9.30 I met one of the carers who had been holding Maureen’s hand in my absence.  We caught up on the day, and Maureen mentioned that she had been entertaining her companions with circuit training in the garden.  As you will see from the photo this cold snap has not prevented her from taking the advice to keep walking very seriously: she’s out there in all weathers!

When the carer had gone Maureen seemed genuinely pleased to see me.   I wondered where the angry woman who had berated me when I phoned her from Leicester on my outward journey had gone.  She had clearly forgotten telling me to come home, rather than continue with my trip to Coventry

There are three lessons from my trip to Coventry.  Firstly, when  I go to see John again take him some chocolate as that always puts a smile on his face. Secondly, try to make sure that I have music to hand on my next visit to see mum: it fills the long silences when we both have nothing to say.  Finally, never again phone Maureen when I’m away for the day again: it only adds to her confusion, and causes distress.

There’s only one way to close this post.  All together now:



About Remember Me

I am a retired adult educator. My wife had a stroke in February 2014 and now has mixed dementia. Her recovery from stroke has been exceptional apart from 50% loss of peripheral vision and vascular damage. 'Dharma For Dementia' is my approach to being Maureem's Care Partner: it aims to end the suffering of 'Prescribed Disengagement' (Swaffer) .
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4 Responses to Dementia: ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’

  1. Leah says:

    You do have your hands full! Thank you for the reminder of the importance of music. I volunteer at a care home, and must try ti rig up some music when I am gardening in the courtyard next summer.

    I truly appreciate the glimpses into your days. It’s not always easy reading, but I think you are delivering important insight.

    Oh, thanks for the tune, as well. I always thought I should have been born a couple of decades earlier. Huge Beatles fan.


  2. Remember Me says:

    Thanks Leah. George was my favourite. Who did you like the best?


  3. Nice post, and lovely pictures.


  4. Remember Me says:

    Thanks Lemony – hope you are well.


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