Friday, 10 February 2012

Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde

I have pangs of conscience writing about my Alzheimer's suffering mother-in-law on this blog but it's supposed to be a retirement blog and it's something that looms very large in our retirement at the moment and I'm sure that it will loom large in other retiree's lives.  I'm not going to damage her dignity with a photo this time as she isn't looking her best having been (as I wrote earlier in the week) rushed into hospital in the early hours of Sunday . I can't praise Ward 11b in Southport hospital enough for the way that they looked after Flo for the four nights of her stay. She was given constant attention and kept comfortable throughout.

She's back at her care home now and on medication to help with a chest infection (possibly pneumonia) that resulted in an irregular heartbeat and breathlessness. Her colour has returned and her breathing is back to normal; the problem lies in her mental state. Whenever we visited the hospital we could hear Flo (she has a loud and distinctive London accent) long before we reached the ward entrance. Invariably she was laughing and in good spirits. The second that Marion and I were in view this changed and she would slump onto the bed crying and claiming a myriad of aches and pains - perhaps we just have this effect on some people. So our visits would pass with Flo in abject misery for the full hour and us lost for anything positive to say. The ward staff expressed surprise at the changes that came over her and they told us that she had been walking around freely for hours on end. When we came to collect her at four p.m yesterday she insisted that she couldn't walk and we had to get a wheelchair. In the past she has always been good on her feet.

This Jekyll and Hyde behavior continued as we left the ward - big smiles and huge hugs and kisses for the nursing staff together with 'You take care' at the top of her voice - followed by a constant litany of complaints en route to the car, during the drive and again when we walked her back to her room. On arrival in the room a carer welcomed her and the mask was switched again to huge hugs, laughter and smiles only to disappear the second that the carer left and the miserable mask returned.

I know that Alzheimer's is a terrible disease and it must be horrendous for Flo and every one else who suffers from it but there is certainly still something there in her brain that allows these huge changes in mood between the one that we get and the one that's on show to others. Perhaps the bad mood is the real Flo and she feels comfortable enough with us to show her true colours or perhaps we are being punished and seen as responsible for confining her to a home after other family members told her she would never be put in one. Whichever it is, it's extremely dispiriting as our frequent visits are tinged with a foreboding gloom that is difficult to feel positive about.

We do feel positive however about this evening when our friends Mark and Nita Jones from Workhouse Marketing in Ribchester are visiting and we're off to The Vincent in Southport for a bite to eat. That's the place where Wayne Rooney's meal at Christmas ended up costing him £250k. I hope it's a bit cheaper for us. Mark and Nita have cause to celebrate as their son Tom's The Whalley Wine Shop won the prestigious Independent Drinks Retailer Of The Year at the Off Licence News awards in London earlier this week - and well deserved it was too. It's a super little shop with a wonderful selection of fine wines, beers and spirits coupled with excellent advice and great service.

I'm busy preparing a talk on metal detecting for a local history society in the Yorkshire Dales on Wednesday. I hope that the snow holds off. One of the themes of my talk is how the public sees detector users and I think this advert just about sums it up.