is worse than anything else. I can no longer bear it. A man whose fingers plucked and stroked and coaxed his instrument to make heavenly music now takes hours over doing up a button in a cardigan or push a piece of paper into a non-existent pocket. A man who rushed about London’s streets to the manner born - literally - now doesn’t recognise his own home. “You can drive, can’t you?” he asks, “can we go home now?”
During the prolonged festive season there were no surgeries open and I couldn’t ask for help. It wouldn’t have been much use, because there is no help. But we always think there must be something we can do, don’t we.
On the first working day after the holidays his GP rang. “How is J, how do you find him in himself?” Stupid question, I thought, but just answered wth “Hmm?” And then she said “And how are you?” Ditto, stupid question. Again I answered “Hmm?” Only then did she come to the point. “I am looking at J’s blood test findings, they're actually not good. Not that we can necessarily do anything about any of it.” “Yes,” I said, “we’ve realised that.” “Particularly the kidney function. That’s gone right down form 20% to 16% now. And it won’t get any better."
She was very nice about it, voice oozing bedside manner - in a good way - sympathy and compassion clearly audible. I felt I had to reassure her. “Tell me,” I said, “I won’t collapse on your shoulder.” I only collapse in private. Or maybe here, where nobody knows me.
“It’s now a question of quality over quantity”, she finally admitted. "Looking at his medication, there are a few things we can cut; just leave the ones which will ease him. None of those blood tests, like INR or routine annuals now. It’s important that he enjoys what he can and forgets about everything else.”
So, it’s official, but then we knew that. Since just before Christmas the dementia has enveloped all of him; almost nothing makes sense. For whole evenings he is obsessed with one subject, we’ve had hospitals, elections to become Archbishop of Canterbury (him!), chairs and whether to take them home with us, car races and crashes (mine), sanitary ware china, and over and over again urgent request to take him to work, because he’s on for Wagner or a ballet, or a concert at the Albert Hall. “Where are my shoes, I need to go.”
His kidneys are slowly poisoning what little understanding of reality he still has. A younger man would receive dialysis, an old man couldn’t survive the treatment.
I can no longer bear it. It breaks my heart. Yet, at the same time, I can understand that there are people who lose their patience and shout, Or worse. I admit to having stamped my foot and screamed at him when I tried for the umpteenth time to make him understand that he needed me to take him to the bathroom to avoid accidents.
The assessment social worker has been. One day when Beloved was particularly agitated, furious that I stopped him going to work and ready to swear at me, and I could barely keep him in his chair, I rang the doctor, demanding to know which of the many bodies in existence could help me, there and then.
Emergency admittance to a care home is never a good idea, these decisions need cool heads and careful consideration. So I gave in. Beloved had fallen asleep by then and given up going to work. But Doctor Wendy got off her comfortable chair and raised Cain. Cain came, closely followed by more social workers, district nurses, a dementia nurse and a dementia specialist doctor. The assessment social worker instantly granted me extra carers during the week and all of them promised to help me find a solution, i.e, a care home for Beloved, either on a respite basis or permanently. The dementia doctor doubted that I’d ever be able to cope with him again and for the sake of my own health and sanity recommended that I make enquiries immediately.
And then the old bugger goes to bed like a lamb and smiles at me and says: “Can I have a kiss?"