wings and things

A conversation with dementia

on March 15, 2014

I realize that the title of this post sounds odd but sometimes, in my conversations with Anthony, it is as if I am talking to two people: 1. Anthony-familiar (Ants); and 2. Anthony-with-dementia (AD). Here is a rendition of today’s conversation in the nursing home.

Ants: When did you get here?
Me: Right this minute.
Ants: Where did you come from?
Me: Home.

AD: Ming and I got all of those calves rounded up and into the paddock in front of the house. They are all in good condition.
Me: Oh! When did you do this?
AD: Yesterday, after you left. We also fixed the fence.
Me: That’s fantastic – thank you.
AD: You don’t need to thank me – it’s my job.
Me: Yes, but it’s a relief to know all of the calves are okay and the fence is finally fixed. I was a bit worried.
AD: Ming is a good worker.
Me: Well you and Ming are a great team. It’s wonderful that you are teaching him how to do these things because I wouldn’t have a clue.
AD: We just need to fix up the other boundary fence now [trying to get up out of his chair]
Me: Well Ming isn’t here now so can we wait until tomorrow when you come home?
AD: Okay.

Ants: Bloody rotten about Ming’s back.
Me: Well your back isn’t the best but look how well you coped.
Ants: I think his is worse. He could have done anything if he didn’t have that back.
Me: We just have to accept it now, Ants – Ming has.

AD: I’m still going to need his help though, on the farm.
Me: Of course!
Ants: Tomorrow?
Me: Yes.

Tomorrow is Sunday so I will be picking Ants up around 10.30am to come home for the day, and Ming will take him back to the nursing home in the afternoon. Ants has requested smoked salmon and avocado sandwiches so that is easily done.

I would be lying if I said I am looking forward to tomorrow because, no matter how much I want Ants home, and no matter how much he will love being home, it is going to be an extremely difficult day for Ming and me. There will be a lot of lifting, toiletting, confusion, frustration, barely restrained angst (Ming), and barely restrained sorrow (me). By 3pm Anthony will begin to falter and by 4pm he will be unable to walk at all so I will have to get Ming to take him back to the nursing home at 3pm and Anthony will get upset.

On the other hand, perhaps I should just alter my thinking a bit. We will have four hours together, the sandwiches will be delicious and we will give Anthony a million hugs. In fact, I reckon the whole hug thing is underrated because, during today’s conversation, I decided to give Ants a hug every time it got a bit too confusing for me and his big/small arms around me were much more powerful than any words.

I will just have to tell Ming to go easy on his habit of hugging Anthony rather ferociously because it scares the hell out of Ants!

44 responses to “A conversation with dementia

  1. mimijk says:

    Brings back so many memories of times with my dad. Hug Ants for me too – and ask Ming to give you one helluva a hug from me.

  2. susanpoozan says:

    You make me realise how fortunate i am.

  3. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography) says:

    I just love that last sentence.

    You have this amazing way of mixing sorrow with humour – I can almost hear You, Anthony and Ming sparring together in the old days.


  4. Anthony definitely has great taste; you and smoked salmon and avocado sandwiches. 🙂

  5. Lynda says:

    You are an amazing and wonderfully strong woman, Julie. I love how you have learned to negotiate the duality of a conversation with Anthony and AD simultaneously.

  6. bulldog says:

    You do realise that all that you have been sharing, just has to end in a book one day….

  7. The ‘real’ Ants may fade at times into AD but I know your memories of him and your life together will sustain you in those quiet moments.. Living however in the realities has to be stressful…. and Ming’s character must certainly be growing… Diane

  8. ahh you have a heart of gold Julie!
    Diana xo

  9. Brilliant idea to pick your perspective. And, about the two-people comment; it reminded me of what Timothy Leary said in response to being asked, “Who are you?” His response, “Depends on who’s asking.” Hope it all goes well. xoxo

  10. ksbeth says:

    and it will all be okay, the good and the bad )

  11. I love how you are aiming to zoom in on the precious four hours of positiveness and block out the discomforting bits. You always make the best out of each occasion; and always show that the most important things in life are, well …. important ….. like love and love and love and love (and hugs).
    Hugs to you from here in Tassie (raining today). 🙂

  12. diannegray says:

    Best of luck today, Julie. It’s really difficult dealing with dementia but you’re coping very well indeed xxx

  13. Very interesting post!
    As the daughter of a father who died of Alzheimer’s and a mother who struggles now with advanced dementia, I appreciate your light and serious touches, the gentle humor and the sadness of the reality.

  14. can never get enough hugs x

  15. tootlepedal says:

    I hope you get more of the good things than the bad tomorrow.

  16. My Heartsong says:

    I visited a woman last week who had dementia. She told me her husband had died in January and that she missed him. A short time later she told me, ” sh-h-h.We must be quiet -my husband is sleeping in the back room.”She could jump 50 years in seconds. She still knew how to bake, although I did keep an eye on things for safety, but it turned out well.

  17. Yeah you have to just go with the flow when talking to someone with dementia

  18. Julie…I am so impressed with you. No matter how difficult things may be, you don’t let the difficult stop you from the doing. And the keeping Anthony in your life, and you in his. I have seen people struggle to understand dementia, not understanding how to “redirect” or how the disease is sometimes in charge of the conversation-not the person. I know how very difficult it is and that is all the more reason to respect you and Ming and Anthony.

  19. Julie, you’re amazing. I shall be thinking of you all today. I hope the hugs do the trick for you all.

  20. There can never too many hugs in this world! Your perseverance in keeping the connection between the three of you fully alive is truly inspiring.

  21. Judith Post says:

    Hugs work wonders–all the way around. Ming will just have to be gentle:)

  22. FlaHam says:

    Julie, I am always amazed by the love you and Ants share. It is truly special. And so so much more than most marriages I have paid witness too. These are heart breaking and heart lifting posts at the same time. We all wish that Ants hadn’t fallen ill, but are all grateful to see that your love is still there and stronger inspite of his illness. Take care, Bill

  23. Such a mix of sweet and tough in a day. Sigh for you.

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