I sincerely hope that I will have other subjects to write about again but since that dreadful day in the middle of December I have barely had time to think, much less do, other than slog away. He’s got worse at a tremendous rate since then and hates to lose sight of me. Which means that I have to sit and watch idiot TV programmes with him. I have noticed though that TV has little interest for him now, he often falls asleep in the middle of his previously favourite shows, like Endeavour and Sherlock. Documentaries which fascinated him before are a waste of time now. There is a hole where his interests were.
The paramedics recommended that I arrange for a bed downstairs for him, so now he sleeps in the dining room, with the dining room table and chairs piled up in the conservatory. It’s winter and we don’t use the conservatory much anyway. We are lucky that the dining room connects to a downstairs bathroom which means no stair climbing any more. Scratching my head how to get a spare single bed from upstairs down the stairs and put into the dining room which is right at the end of the house, leading from the hall through the sitting room, I came up with an ingenious answer: call the fire brigade in the shape of the husband of one of my carers and a mate of his, who happens to live right opposite our drive. What else was I supposed to do? It was two days before Christmas and everybody was busy. So, one major problem solved. I have seen a lot of kindness in the past three weeks, kindness I never expected.
At least he’d be safe downstairs, I thought. He was very unsteady on his pins and needed my arm as well as his stick to move at all. Even with assistance he tottered and stumbled and more than once I grabbed him just in time before falling. Still, twice more he fell. Once he slipped on a rug (which has since been removed) slid down the wall behind his chair and grazed his arm, his back and bottom severely. On that occasion I called my good friends and neighbours, Sue and Ralph, for help. Luckily, their son in law Owen had arrived for the holiday and Owen and Ralph got Beloved back up and into his seat. Shaken and less mobile than ever. Those of you who know these things realise that the patient has to be accompanied and assisted at all times, in the bath, loo, at table, - oh my God, table manners are a thing of the past! - into and out of chairs, etc. Whatever you can think of, the dementia patient needs help with it.
So there we were, having overcome the first hurdles. We were also waiting for the doctor to visit with test results. Beloved was a little calmer, not wanting to get up every three quarter hour to visit the loo. I had started a groceries order which needed completing in time for a delivery the next day; he was asleep in his chair and I grabbed the chance to rush upstairs and add the last few items. Ten minutes later I heard the loo flush. Oh bother, I thought, he’s gone by himself. Well, if he’s dribbled into his pants, he’s dribbled and it’s too late anyway; I must get this order finalised. One learns to put up with a whole lot of things which one would never have countenanced before.
When I got down about fifteen minutes later he was nowhere to be found. Hello? HELLO? No Millie either. I went to the front door, he might have gone down the drive, although that seemed most unlikely, seeing that he could barely walk unaided. I saw a little red car had drawn up, doors open, motor running. Sometimes tourists mistakenly use our drive as an entrance to the castle and I was going out to tell them to drive out again and use the next track instead. No tourists stood there but Karen, one of Beloved’s carers got out, closely followed by Beloved and Millie. She had driven over the bridge and found the pair of them struggling up the other side, just starting on the steep hill to the top.
"I found them the other side of the bridge", Karen said. She’d recognised Millie and took a closer look at the man she was following, without a lead, walking freely along a busyish road. It was one of those icy days we had recently, bitterly cold. Beloved was dressed in sandals and a cardigan over a shirt, another ten minutes’ uphill struggle might have ended his adventure there and then.
He thawed out in our warm kitchen, Millie faithfully lying at his feet. “They’ve made a lot of changes over there,” Beloved said, “a lot of new buildings have gone up. I hardly recognised the town.”
No buildings have gone up in that part of Valley’s End recently, it’s been as it is for four hundred years, bridge and all, barring a few minor alterations. He’s lost the geography of his home village as well as that of his house.
When I berated him for endangering Millie, taking her out into the village without a lead, he said “She’s so good, I just told her to stay with me. And she did. She knew where she was, as well.” Meaning that he didn’t quite.
The amazing thing is how he got out and up there so quickly. For a man who can barely move he made extremely good time. It’s not an easy walk either. If he left by the back door there is a slope to negotiate and a very narrow, muddy track which I tend to avoid in icy or wet conditions because it can be quite treacherous. I asked how he’d got to the lane and he said he held on to the hedge and then the ivy growing at the entrance to it. When I told the District Nurse who had come to patch up his bruises and grazes she said “well, we all know how quickly toddlers can be.”
That’s what he is now, a toddler.