Wednesday, 22 February 2017

In Limbo

I always thought I’d be fine being on my own. After all, I spent many years more or less on my own, with the children, admittedly, but very little adult company, except at work. It’s always been on the cards that Beloved goes before me, that’s how it is when you marry someone much older. It’s not a surprise when it happens. But, by golly, it’s strange. And hard.

I find myself sitting around uselessly, staring into space, not doing anything. I start on jobs, like clearing out cupboards, decluttering, by fetching out empty boxes ready for filling, And that’s usually as far as I get; empty boxes are piling up but cupboards and chests of drawers remain full. I have taken a few things to charity shops but I’ve hardly made a dent.

It’s hard to know what to dispose off. It feels as if I’m clearing Beloved out of my life and this house before he’s even dead. I find programmes of special occasions at the Opera House and foreign tours. Should I keep programmes of Royal occasions, like Charles and Diana’s wedding? What for?  Piles of sheet music, who wants it? Ancient photographs, loose and in albums, any takers? Notes and written records, in a painstakingly small and neat hand, beyond my eyesight now, what relevance do they have now? A large stack of original vinyl, whole sets of symphonies, operas, ballet music, some of them conducted by the composer. Perhaps there’s money in them. I hear vinyl is fashionable again; internet, have you any ideas? Photographic equipment, bags of pre-digital cameras, lenses, etc.; you can’t even give it away.

So there I stand, picking up this and that, flicking through, and back it goes on to the shelves.

And then I go to my china and glass cupboards. For years I collected things, we had such fun going to antique markets. I also still have stuff I took away when I cleared out my mum’s flat, some of it going back to her wedding. Here too I sit a box on the floor and stare into the shelves. Is there anything I really still want? Everyday stuff lives in the kitchen, yes there are dinner and tea sets. which I will keep for now, but really fancy glass, silver and my willow pattern collection, presents received over the years, bits and pieces picked up here and there, keepsakes for the future, I thought. The future is here and I can only stare at the stuff, feeling paralysed, unable to even formulate a coherent thought, much less carrying it through. There’s stuff which is actually valuable, so not really meant for charity shops, although the things might well end up there eventually.

Some of the boxes will be filled when I can bring myself to do so, there are a few things our assorted children will want, but not many. “We don’t have the space”, they say. What they really mean is  “We don’t have the space for your mouldy old treasures.”

I’m in limbo. Utterly unable to rouse myself. People and self-help columns tell me I must socialise, get out and about, meet people, talk. I had some tea in a little coffee shop this morning. I met an acquaintance in the street yesterday who hailed me and wanted to know everything about Beloved and me. As well as tell me about her husband who is in hospital at the moment. “Why don’t we keep each other company and have a drink at The Maltings tomorrow”, she said. I couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to turn her down and agreed. It wasn’t too bad, I talked, she talked, then a chap joined us who talked a lot. Quite a lot of the talk was about mental illness in the elderly. Apparently one in three of us will eventually lose our marbles, if we get old enough. Earlier, I had been for a blood test at the surgery. Very soon the nurse launched into a detailed account of how dementia had changed her mother. There is hardly a person I meet who doesn’t have a tale to tell. Many details are instantly recognisable, the saddest part is when the sufferer no longer recognises you.

Beloved is not there yet. Although he is changing day by day, he still knows me. At least I hope it will be so when I next see him. Our country road has been closed for roadworks and going to the Care Home requires a long detour until it is reopened Friday. I confess I haven’t seen him since Sunday. He didn’t wake up at all then and I left again after only 45 minutes, reading my book, sitting next to him.When I rang the Home to tell them I wasn’t coming they said, “about time too” “Take some time off for yourself, if there’s a problem we’ll ring you.” They haven’t, which means all is OK, or as OK as it can be.

Visiting him every day at least gave me something to do. It also gave the other patients the opportunity to fuss over Millie. Millie too seems unable to settle to anything. She clings to me and gives me a huge welcome when I return after leaving her for even just a very short while.

Having family around would help, but that’s not to be. Beloved’s younger daughter visited him, coming via a long train journey. But no one else has visited. Soon it’ll be too late. My son is coming next month to help me with things around the house, let’s hope I have an idea by then what needs doing. And while he’s here Beloved and I will have our 30th wedding anniversary. I never thought we’d make it that far. I hope we will, it’s a nice round number.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Good Days Bad Days . . . . .

and so it goes, there is no help, there is no hope.

When I visited the care home today Beloved was sitting in an armchair in the TV lounge, fast asleep. It was about three fifteen pm, long enough after lunch for him to have woken again from his regular nap. Or so I thought. He barely managed to open his eyes, and even Millie raised only a very feeble smile. He still knows me, still knows who it is who strokes his hair, holds his hand and speaks close to his ear.

The nurses say he is bright and alert in the morning, eats a hearty breakfast, potters about in his room,  with the aid of a Zimmer frame, and listens to the radio until lunch time. I can hardly believe it although they have no reason to fabricate stories. Perhaps I should visit in the mornings rather than late afternoon.

Today it looked as if he’s given up, or perhaps the dementia has fully enveloped him. In the very short space of two months he has changed beyond all recognition. He’s always been rather handsome, in a gentle way, now his face is deeply lined and pale. His eyes are rarely other than vacant, except when somebody other than me visits him; there is still that ingrained politeness, the good manners, the obliging personality. The carers and nurses have already grown fond of him. “He’s lovely, no trouble, the perfect gentleman.” The lady in charge calls him “a charming man”.

I am getting used to being home alone, with only Millie for company. Tears for what was, and is no longer, still come but not as frequently and overwhelmingly as a few days ago. I come in, take off my coat and pour myself a glass of wine. I have started to cook again, meals with a few vegetables and small quantities of fish or meat or an omelet. Nothing very elaborate, just more than the chocolate and tranquillisers I ate when the whole misery kicked off. I still make for the cupboard that hides the chocolate but my consumption of it is less compulsive.

On two days I didn’t visit the care home, once to buy a fridge/freezer - wouldn’t you know it, several household appliances have packed in - and once because I was inundated with jobs left undone. Of course, I felt guilty for not going, but I must admit that those two days were also a much needed break.

I am not going to visit Beloved tomorrow either, tomorrow is a grown-up day: friends are taking me to see 'The Rover', a play by the seventeenth century poet, novelist, translator and playwright Aphra Behn. She was one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, I’ve never seen the play and I'm looking forward to experiencing an early feminist writer’s take on love, infatuation, confusion, anger and revenge at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I believe it all ends well which will help cheer me up.

Monday morning a violin dealer is coming to the house to take a look at Beloved’s remaining instruments, a bow and other musician’s paraphernalia. I hope he will relieve me of much of it. No one in the family plays the viola or the violin, they’ve all taken to other instruments, so there cannot be any bad feeling about getting rid of them.

Last Wednesday afternoon I came home, plagued by the usual guilt feelings at my ‘cold-hearted disloyalty’ to the one man in my life who has meant more to me than any other. We really were two sides of the same coin, indissoluble, I thought. Friends for life, lovers for ever. I sat over my glass of wine, shocked and in disbelief at the enormity of what I was doing. I thought back over the days since he left hospital and entered the care home, and pictured everything that has happened since: everything he said and did, everything he needed to have done for him, everything doctors and nurses, carers and the memory specialist said. I pictured him being helped in and out of his chair, into the bathroom, into the shower, being dressed and undressed, put to bed. His alarm button and the mat in front of his bed which is sensitive to the pressure of feet - setting off the alarm in the nurses station telling them that he is on the move in the middle of the night - , his long sleeps and confusion on waking, his growing impatience with me for being unable to help him make sense of life generally, his incoherent rambles about a time I know nothing about.

Setting it all out before me, in my mind, I suddenly knew, without a shadow of doubt, that I could not look after him at home; I knew that what I had done was the only thing to do, the kind thing, the decent thing, the safe thing. People have been telling me so for three weeks, I suppose I had to realise it for myself. When I saw him today, frail and absent with just the tiniest smile playing round his lips when I called him ‘my darling’ my eyes filled again, but this time there was no guilt, bitter regret, but no guilt.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Good News Sad News . . . .

Beloved was admitted (admitted - doesn’t that sound awful?) to his Nursing and Care Home on Tuesday, straight via paramedic transport from the hospital. I arrived before him and was already sitting in his room when he was wheeled in. His face lit up the moment he saw me.

How did you get here? How did you know I was coming here? So lovely to see you. etc.

He was very tired and almost at the end of his strength after 2+ weeks in hospital, where any likelihood of recovery from an illness is far from given. He was barely able to get out of the wheelchair and on to his armchair.

First impressions of the Care Home were good, the staff was friendly and helpful, the room and bathroom neat and very clean, the food good (they had kept lunch for him); while I was waiting for him one of the nurses showed me around, I found everything satisfactory.

The place is like Fort Knox, well run but impossible to break into and out of. Everything on Beloved’s wing is regulated by keypads, access to lifts and stairs requires code numbers. I had a job to get my codes organised, now, several days later, I am still asking staff to help me get in and out. Even if he could walk unaided, Beloved is not going to pick up his trusty stick and make for the exit. He wouldn’t get very far.

I had a wonderful example of the craftiness of dementia today. As I was leaving, three elderly ladies stood around by the lift. One had a light coat over her arm and a handbag. All three were in day clothes and chatting amiably. I did my trick with the lift doors and two of them climbed aboard with me, the third just about to step in when the doors began to shut. I somewhat perfunctorily called out “NO, careful now”. All three were rather wraithlike and there was a doubt at the back of my mind about them: were they residents, by any chance?

The doors shut and one of them said “now you’ve frightened her”, meaning the one left behind. “But it’s happened and can’t be helped.”  I was getting really worried. “Are you sure, you err . . erm. . . .” If they were bona fide visitors it would be most embarrassing to have doubts about them. “Oh yes, “ said the spokeswoman, "we are leaving now.” I took a closer look: thinning, slightly straggly white hair, frail and a little unsteady, and with that vacant look of dementia, crafty, but empty-eyed.

On the ground floor I put down my bags and made as if to punch in a number on the keypad. “Remind me, ladies, which way round . . . . . .? They had no idea.

I was sure now and went for help. A carer was within range and I handed my wraiths over to her. Even then I was told to wait with making my exit until they had been safely shepherded out of the way and into the lounge next door.

Hagley Place Care Home is good and a comfortable place to be, a bit like a medium range hotel, except that the staff wipe your bottom, give you a bath, and come running when you ring your bell. I am told that Beloved eats well (he orders the “full English” for his breakfast!) and has so far not tried to escape. I’ve lugged lots of homely things in for him, pictures for the walls, a small wardrobe full of clothes, daffodils and other bulbs in pots about to burst into bloom, as well as edible treats. He is allowed to have anything he wants in his room and I can visit any time of day. The chef will provide a meal for me too, if given prior notice. Today I took him a very small quantity of sherry. And Millie, Millie has already become a favourite, both with staff and residents.

In the three and a half days of his stay Beloved has already had his hair cut, seen a doctor and been visited by the memory nurse from the Memory Clinic which first diagnosed him. He’s been drawn into activities, is taken to the dining room to eat his meals and encouraged to walk with a Zimmer frame, which he learned to do instantly. Still very weak but recovering some of the strength he lost in hospital.

But, Oh My Goodness Me, picture the residents, the inmates, the poor creatures incarcerated for their own good. I see some of them and I could weep at the ruins once upright and intelligent people have become. I should say that this is a very expensive private home which reflects the class of patient to some extent. One nurse proudly told me of Jack, the former editor of a national paper, Mary, a former painter, Joan, a well known former golfer given to addressing other residents in the dining room in cut-glass accent and phrases, thanking them all for coming and providing excellent rankings in spite of the dreadful weather, for which she actually apologises. Now nurse has Beloved to add to her gallery of notables. "Fancy that”, she says, “a principal player at the Royal Opera”.

But really and truly, it’s all so awful, I can hardly bear it. Yesterday he asked me: “Where did you disappear to last night? We are still married, aren’t we? You haven’t left me?” And “What am I actually doing here?” I still talk about the Convalescent Home and sometimes, when he gives me a little nudge in that direction, about a hotel he’s staying at without me. The hardest thing in the world is to pick up my bags, take Millie’s lead in my hand, gaily call out “See you tomorrow”, and walk out of that door, leaving him behind.

I’ve been out three times in the last few days, once to a live streaming of the play “Amadeus”, once to a lecture about a particular aspect of child abuse (now there’s a cheerful subject!),  and today to a lunch in aid of refugees. Everybody else is so busy being chatty and lively and animated and I’m just sitting there thinking “what am I doing here? On my own?” People at the lunch were very nice to me and asked genuine questions. I could only answer with tears in my eyes. People being kind is the very devil, I am always glad when the questioner is no more than an acquaintance and I can answer their How Are You with the bland formula Very Well Thank You.

Friday, 27 January 2017

I Daren’t Crow Just Yet. . . .. . . .

. . . . .but Beloved has been accepted for nursing care at an EMI facility and Residential Home in Ludlow, a drive of no more than 40 minutes away. It costs an absolute arm and a leg but we have a magnificently generous member of the next generation in the family who is going to bear the brunt of the costs. I am still hoping that a small contribution will be made by social services and maybe the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund but member-of-next-generation assures me that I needn’t worry about funding.

When I got to the ward today I had a shock. Beloved was sitting slumped in his usual chair, ashen faced, chin on chest, oxygen mask attached. Deeply asleep. His pyjamas were stained with food spills, his hair stood off in all directions. Not a picture of health and happiness. In a flash I had a picture of the nurse/assessor walking in on him looking like an immediate candidate for the boneyard and making up her mind there and then to forget about him as a patient at their pristine home. Silly of me, because that’s what their homes are for, to give old people coming to the end of their lives a dignified exit, as pleasant as possible. What's a food stain or two on the front of the pyjamas matter compared to that?

I made a bit of a fuss, the harassed nurse in charge of the bay took off the mask and put in a nasal cannula instead, explaining that his blood oxygen levels had come up again to an acceptable level during the morning and that his extreme sleepiness was due to insufficient oxygen uptake. They couldn’t wash him and change his pyjamas because they simply hadn’t been able to wake him sufficiently and for long enough.

Nurse/assessor being a member of the profession understood perfectly. I combed his hair, tidied his dressing gown around him and sat him up a bit, with his help. Loads of questions, during which Beloved nodded off again, off and on. But when he woke he was quite lucid.

All in all it went ok; it was decided that he should go into their nursing facility to regain some of the strength he had lost in his two weeks in hospital and that he might recover enough to be moved to the residential unit later.

He was sweetness and light, smiled, agreed with everything nurse/assessor said, professed himself delighted at being ‘sprung’ to go to a ‘convalescent home’ (my idea to call it that), that Millie would be able to visit, that I could spend as much time with him as I wanted and that he’d finally have some privacy again. Even the chef-prepared food appeared to interest him. In other words, he was the perfect gentleman.

Then the nurse/assessor left to speak to the staff on the ward and to look at his notes. Immediately Beloved’s face went dark, a serious frown on his forehead. “Don’t believe a word she said,” he whispered, “I don’t trust her for a minute. Do not go in with her, do not invest in anything she suggests". I was taken aback. Dementia patients can become very suspicious of others. “Really,” I said, “you think so?” “Absolutely”, he said, no doubt in my mind at all,” “Very well,” I said, “I won’t then.” He was satisfied with that.

Nurse/assessor came back to discuss arrangements with me before she left. Once again Beloved was smiling and sunny. By now a friend of ours had appeared at the bedside and for a moment several of us talked at the same time, making a conversation he could not follow. Immediately he went on the offensive. “Tell me what’s going on”, he said, “I can’t understand what you’re all saying and I don’t like it. If you don’t stop it I won’t trust you anymore either.” looking daggers at me. Dementia patients have lost the ability to follow a more than two-way conversation and are quickly beset by fear and anxiety, making them aggressive. They take a lot of understanding, tact and intuition and losing patience or intimating that you think them stupid is the worst anyone can do. Always agree with them or distract them. They are easily distracted and even the offer of a cup of tea or pointing at a cloud will do to lead them into safer waters.

A nursing home for dementia patients should be just the perfect environment for Beloved. Make sure you keep your fingers crossed for a few days more, please.

When, like now, I am thinking of him and what he’s said or done today, I have the feeling that all I need to do is run down the stairs, find him sitting in his favourite arm chair, and tell him all about it. Alas, he will never come home. When transferring him to a nursing home means that we can have maybe a few more months of quality time rather than me wearing myself out attempting to look after him, then so be it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

More Tears than Laughter...

...since I last posted. Although there is still the involuntary giggle he has made me cry many times in the last few days. I had thought for a long time that my tear ducts must have dried up or got blocked,  in recent  days I learned differently.

There is still no definite news on a placement although I have found a Care Home/Nursing Home who have spare capacity. A nurse is visiting the hospital on Friday to ‘assess' him. That’s a euphemism for checking out if he is a suitable resident for their posh - and very expensive - premises. Most homes aren’t registered to take people like Beloved who try to escape every chance they get. He is quiet, still enormously polite and well-spoken, still a true gentleman, but he has this urge to 'go home’.

The first thing he said to me when I arrived today - straight after the usual initial remark and question: “how lovely to see you, how did you manage to get here and find me?” - was that he had had words with the staff. "I told them in no uncertain terms that I could leave any time I chose, that they had no right to keep me here. Of course, they apologised and pleaded that they have to keep me here for safety reasons, that I might cause an accident and endanger others. What nonsense.” He still speaks like a well-educated man and throws long words around which nobody, in their right mind, or with a lesser love of language, would use. He is such a dear.

As always, I managed to placate him quite quickly. The staff had been waiting for me, promising him that I would turn up soon and explain. He has an almost childlike belief in my ability to make things better. I promised him that I would ‘spring’ him the first chance I got, but that the staff were quite right to insist on his temporary stay with them, for the sake of his own safety as well as that of others. I reminded him of his fall at home - “I had a fall? I don’t recall at all.” - and that he might fall again if he went off without assistance.

“Yes, but if I stay here, where are you going to sleep tonight?” I daren’t use the word HOME, any mention of it immediately makes him question the wisdom of him staying behind while I’m allowed to go home. The answer to his question was “In my old bed, upstairs.” He has no idea where that might be.

We had some poetry - I often take some of his favourite poems and read them to him. Today we had Siegfried Sassoon’s “Everyone Sang”

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on - on - and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

By the third line I was crying. It’s a poem he knows by heart and he was reciting along with me. “Beautiful”, he said, but I doubt that he made the connection between freedom and beauty and his own sad state of imprisonment, both in body and mind.

Hospital food is not very appetising, he says, barely audible, hand hiding the words from view, making sure that nobody can punish him for criticising the service. I have tried all sorts of treats, special sandwiches, puddings, sweets, fruits; what he likes best is his own rhubarb from the freezer - grown and cooked by him - with a layer of custard on top. I spoonfeed him, because rhubarb is apt to dribble and soil his pyjamas. He opens his mouth wide “like a sparrow baby when mum comes with a juicy worm”. He laughed at my remark, not at all put out.

I’ve also smuggled in cider and beer. I have no idea if alcohol is allowed or not, but he always had at least one drink every day at home. Even his taste buds have gone. He drank the first (toddler)cup of cider with great pleasure but didn’t like the beer very much. The next time the drink of cider wasn’t a success, he said: “hm, apple juice, but rather different from the real stuff.” I expect he will be allowed a drink in the Nursing Home, where I can join him for a sip or two. He is too ill for anything much to make any difference now. Like the doctor said “quality rather than quantity.”

One day this week I arrived to find him sitting outside the front door of the main hospital building, in a wheelchair, wrapped up in blankets, with an auxiliary in attendance. He looked so frail and grey, so lost and hopeless, my heart just broke. The auxiliary said that he had badly wanted  to go out - go home - and the ward staff had decided to allow him a trip in a wheelchair. By the time we reached his floor I was crying so hard, the auxiliary hugged me and handed me over to the nurse in charge; someone else made me a hot drink and several people spoke to me with great kindness. The problem is that I see the man Beloved has become and a huge wave of guilt hits me for leaving him there, in the hospital, all alone. Realistically I know I can’t look after him at home, but sometimes the pain and heartache overwhelm me.

I still have a friend who looks after Millie every day; she herself has a dog and Millie and Tessie get on well. I finally took Millie to the Vet yesterday, she has bad arthritis in her front elbow and will have to have pain killers. Poor Millie, she hardly gets any attention from me and she misses Beloved terribly, he used to give her a thorough cuddle every evening and, of course, she slept at the foot of his bed. Now she has to make do with me.

I have also done a lot of driving during the last days, it’s getting to me; luckily, we have a good Neighbours Scheme in Valley’s End whose drivers will take people on hospital trips; I shall make use of them more now. Friends are willing but don’t always have the time and when something like this drags on it can become a bit of a chore for everyone.

Keep your fingers crossed that the Nursing Home will accept Beloved.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Saturday, And it’s a Week Since. . . .

. . . . . . Beloved fell and was taken to hospital. The patching up has been done, bruises and scabs are still visible, but he could, by medical standards, be discharged. In fact, a consultant who took me aside during an early visit actually asked :”what is he still here for?” I was gobsmacked. She was a lady doctor, swathed in colourful head scarves and shawls, and I am afraid I need to be somewhat racist now. She looked like the kind of classy Asian or Arab who is used to a large extended family and an army of servants - yes, no doubt, I am being racist and bigoted and prejudiced here - she certainly didn’t look like a woman who struggles to hold it together. She saw the horrified look on my face and back-tracked. Of course it wasn’t personal, she is just being pressured herself to free beds as soon as a patient can be shuffled off. Beloved has become that nasty creature, a bed blocker. Lady consultant was quite blunt: “there is so much wrong with him, we can do nothing for him,” reciting a list of problems.

I made it clear to her that the NHS is obliged to find an alternative placement for him, what with his night time shenanigans; he needs 24 hour care, not something I alone can provide. All the same, I remained rather panicked for the rest of the day and night, I had visions of an ambulance calling at my door and offloading Beloved back ‘into the community’, a euphemism coined by Margaret Thatcher for dumping people and getting them off the back of social services.

During this week I found out that I am not quite as alone and isolated as I thought. Friends have rallied round and provided lifts for me and shelter for Millie during my daily trips to the hospital. On the whole, people have left me alone, none of those concerned but time consuming phone calls “how are you”, “how is he”, when I’ve come home shattered from another afternoon spent with Beloved. Many polite reminders that they are thinking of us and wishing us well, but no requests for detailed information.

It’s been hard going. Yes, there have been funny moments, like that time he said : "if you are going to see the director of this institution you may tell him about the nightly revels". He looked at me sideways, with a crafty expression in his eyes: “I know what goes on here; you should hear the noise, they’re having orgies!” Another time he thought the man in the next bed, who was hidden behind a curtain and therefore invisible to Beloved, was the cabaret; he did make incessant rhythmic noises which sounded a bit like percussion instruments. Beloved frequently thought he was actually in a theatre and the floor show of patients, nurses, doctors and other staff was laid on for him to watch. “Weird lot of performers,” he said. And when he’d had enough he wanted to get up and leave. “Have you any money on you?" he asked. “Why?” “Well, we should leave and pay up, and certainly leave an appropriate tip for the waiters.” “Oh, my dear, it’s all free here,” I said. “Well, fancy that,” he said.

And always: “Let’s just go, shall we? What’s the point of staying here. I really want to go home.”

At first he was at Accident and Emergency, then they took him to the Acute Emergency Unit, now he is on the fairly quiet Nephrology Ward. The whole NHS system is creaking at the seams, staff shortages, huge patient loads and a demoralised workforce are on the way to turning our once great NHS into a dysfunctional rabble, the sort of thing we imagine we find in a third world country.

If only I could take him home.

It’s time to go again, he is still so happy when he sees me that I couldn’t possibly not go.

PS: At the moment I couldn’t care less about Trump and his inauguration, although I joined my lift provider the day before yesterday in some filthy language aimed at him and his supporters.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Day by Day Things Are Getting Worse,

there’s no let up.

Beloved is in hospital now. He has fallen once too often.

The last few nights while he was still at home were horrendous. On the first of them I went into his bedroom downstairs, carrying his morning tea, as always. No Beloved to be seen. I had locked all the doors so he couldn’t have got out. So where was he? He couldn’t really manage stairs anymore, but still, I tried upstairs. He was lying curled up in a foetal position on the bare mattress on his previous bed, half undressed and covered only by the mattress protector gauze sheet. It was a bitterly cold night and the heating in the unused bedroom was off. I coaxed him downstairs, avoiding walking close in front of him in case he toppled over and took me with him. The Aga in the kitchen is always on, after half an hour he began to warm up and stopped shivering. I had no idea how long he had been up there, but at some time during the night Millie came into my room, sighing and thumping, until she settled down.

The next such morning I found him standing in the kitchen, in his pyjamas, going through the motions of putting a kettle on. Great relief on my part; he was ok, hadn’t done anything silly during the night and I could take over and make breakfast. I thought I’d better fetch his dressing gown from his bedroom first though, it wasn’t really warm enough to stand around in pyjamas. I walked in and instantly saw that he had trashed his bedroom. Lamps were thrown all over the place, chairs toppled over, slippers and his (luckily empty) urinal bottle on the bed, duvets and blankets knotted and bunched up, papers from his desk strewn about, electric plugs pulled from their sockets, and a rather heavy bedside table pushed to a new position in the room. Where did the strength and fury come from in such a weak and feeble man? Again, Millie had come in search of me some time during the night, but, again, I paid her no attention.

Then, on Saturday morning, Millie came up to me for the third time and I finally understood that she was telling me something was amiss. I ran downstairs and there he was, on the floor in the living room, again half undressed, on his side, neck bent and head leaning against the very cold conservatory sliding doors. He was moaning and breathing laboriously, fluttering hands scrambling for a hold on any surface he could find. He was about to pull down the curtains and topple an expensive lamp when I caught his arms. I rushed to get a blanket to cover him and a pillow for his head and phoned for an ambulance. I didn’t even try to raise him. The ambulance crew came within five minutes. They were the same two paramedics who had picked him up just before Christmas. They took one look, felt for broken bones, couldn’t find any, and gently hauled him up. One of them fetched a stretcher while the other wrapped him in blankets. “This is not the same man we picked up a couple of weeks ago”, they said.  "He cannot stay home this time, he has to come in and be checked out.”

As he lay upon the stretcher and they were wheeling him out he gave me such an imploring look of confused agony and helpless entreaty I couldn’t hold back the tears. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do for him except trust the professionals, who were taking him out of my life, to look after him.

One of the rough, tough and burly chaps looked back at me. “We’ll take good care of him,” he said.

He’s now been in hospital for three days; in spite of what should be a less fraught situation the nightmare continues.