Yesterday was lovely - the perfect Saturday with Mum. I drop round to the rest home soon after lunch and spend a happy half hour pottering around, sorting and tidying her room. Chucking out dead flowers. Disposing of a week’s worth of newspapers. Returning armfuls of novels that Mum takes from the rest home library. The same ones every week.
Then we set off into town. An errands trip - Mum’s favourite. As we drive round her old haunts, she’s completely absorbed - spotting landmarks, recalling the city of her youth, recounting family stories. She’s an easy passenger. Perfectly happy to sit in the car and watch the world go by as I dot in and out of shops.
By the time we finish, it’s close to four. We stagger through the door and Mum subsides onto the sofa. I busy myself with tomato sandwiches and cups of tea. After that little snack, it’s almost time to take her back.
Every rest home I’ve ever known has dinner at five. So I suggest dinner at ours’. After a little persuasion, she gracefully accepts. Mum has a glass of wine followed by poached eggs, buttered toast and wilted spinach. According to her, all completely delicious.
When I drop Mum back, she wants me to make a promise. That I’ll stay away on Sunday. “I don’t want to see you tomorrow,” she warns. “Of course,” I say. “I’ve got church!” It’s the joke that never fails.
I knew today would be hard. For both of us. Every Sunday when Mum’s usual visitor can't make it, Mum rings me. She manages not to phone until 2.30.
When she calls, she has a question. It’s a good one. “Can you tell me dear, what did they do with people in rest homes before there was television?”
I say I don't know. “I’m asking,” says Mum, “because everyone here is sitting watching TV, all day long. I think I’m going mad.” And so the conversation goes.
Mum doesn't believe she has dementia. She doesn't feel ‘demented’. She doesn't remember the forgetting.
She wants to go home. She wonders if her home has been sold. It has. She hopes that’s not true.
She wants an assessment. She’s feeling better. She wants to talk to her doctor about what can be done.
Last week, Terry Pratchett died. Early onset Alzheimers, diagnosed in 2007. Mum was diagnosed before 2005.
A slow decline or a fast one? What would you want?