I am a big fan of Marianne Talbot’s book “Keeping Mum”. It chronicles the years Marianne’s Mum, who had Alzheimer’s, spent living with her. I love the mix of love and exasperation, humour and poignancy as we get a feel for their shared lives. For Day 15 of our ‘walk in my shoes’ blogposts, looking at dementia from different perspectives, Marianne has given permission to reproduce a moving extract from the book …
What a terrible night! Mum was up and down like a yo-yo until 6 a.m., when she sank into a contented but noisy sleep.
Of course that was the point at which I had to get up.
It was the cat’s fault. Fatcat usually sleeps on Mum’s bed, but last night she curled up beneath it. Soon after we went to bed I could hear Mum ‘puss, puss, puss’-ing. Usually the cat complies fairly quickly and peace reigns. But this time it went on and on. Then I heard Mum get up and put on her light. So up I got to investigate.
I found Mum on her hands and knees asking the cat why she wouldn’t come to bed. The cat had found herself a spot just out of Mum’s reach and, from her lazy gaze, she had no intention of moving. I tried to tempt her out, but Fatcat and I don’t see eye to eye, and if Mum couldn’t move her then I wasn’t going to be able to.
So I turned my persuasive skills to Mum, getting her to go back to bed on the grounds that Fatcat would join her later.
But 20 minutes later the ‘puss, puss, puss’-ing started again, followed by the creaking of the bed and the flooding of the landing with light. Up I got again, and through the same routine.
This happened several times and I got pretty exasperated. ‘It’s 1 o’clock in the morning!’ I groaned. ‘Is it?’ she said ‘I was just looking for the cat.’ ‘The cat doesn’t want to come to bed’, I snarled, ‘leave the poor animal alone.’
But getting exasperated is pointless – for Mum every time is the first time, so she just thinks I’m over-reacting.
At this point I did actually get to sleep. Then at 3 a.m. I was startled awake by the opening of the stair gate. Leaping out of bed I found Mum, with her clothes on over her pyjamas, grumbling that she was fed up of being moved from pillar to post and was going home.
Goodness knows what brought that on, but an hour later the same thing happened, except that Mum had actually started to negotiate the stairs. The stair gate, of course, is supposed to stop her from going downstairs. But she’s a wily old bird and extremely determined. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often, though every night we’re up at least once or twice.
Today, though, I feel like Methuselah’s grandmother while Mum, when I got her up for day care, seemed her usual sprightly self.
Tonight no doubt she’ll complain, when I want to go to bed at 7 p.m., that I have no staying power.
An excerpt from Keeping Mum: Caring for Someone with Dementia by Marianne Talbot, published by Hay House (2011): www.keepingmum.org.uk
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