There is a lovely woman (I will call her Mary) who works as supervisor during afternoon shifts at the nursing home. She and Anthony have such a rapport now that his slow smile stretches into a grin when she enters his room to give him his 4pm meds. The three of us now joke that she is his ‘girlfriend’.
Today was no exception:
Mary: Hi Anthony, I’ve got your pills.
Me: Ants, it’s your girlfriend!
Anthony: Hi … (smiling)
Me: It’s Mary, Ants.
Anthony: Hi Mary.
Mary: Here are your pills, Anthony.
She and I then got chatting while Anthony swallowed his pills (it sometimes takes awhile). I had my one remaining PhD student’s nearly-completed thesis on the table and was checking it for typos. Mary was curious so I told her I used to work at the university and that I’d done a PhD too years back and turned it into a book about Alzheimer’s disease. She asked if she could read it so I gave her the copy I have in Anthony’s top drawer. Then she got called away.
A few moments later, I asked Ants if the pills had gone down.
Me: Have you swallowed them?
Me: What? Do you need water? Open your mouth. Yes, they’ve gone down, your mouth is empty.
Me: What do you mean ‘no’?
Anthony: Ring the … girlfriend. She might have them.
Me (laughing and hugging him): I don’t need to ring her – she’s here! And the pills have gone down, trust me!
I continued to read the thesis when all of a sudden Anthony belched loudly. I put my pen down and glared at him.
Me: How dare you burp in my presence!
Anthony: I’ll have you know … I’m whatshername’s boyfriend.
I find it absolutely amazing that, despite the confusion of Anthony’s dementia, his sense of irony and humour can be so extraordinarily spot on!
After laughing my head off, I took my leave with the usual excuse of ‘just going to get some groceries’.
Anthony: Don’t be too long.
Me: I won’t and just remember I am your real girlfriend.
Anthony: No you’re not – you’re my wife.
It was a very happy drive home.
Another irony is that Mary has borrowed my book which is based on a similar experience from my years-ago nursing days. The way Mary and Anthony interact parallels my experience with a patient I called ‘Joe’, whose refrain became the title of the book “We’ll be married in Fremantle.”
Perhaps the fact that I no longer work in the dementia wing is, despite the difficulty of having had to make this decision, a good thing. As I am now a lady of leisure again, I have much more time to write about the subject of dementia which is so close to my heart and has been for over 20 years. Now, of course, it’s even closer with Anthony in its grip.
My mother and I had a laugh on the phone today because she had visited Anthony in the morning and, after an hour or so, he suddenly said, “Are you going home now?” Having been dismissed, she gathered her knitting and left after giving him a hug.
Me: How come you asked my mother to go? She was hurt.
Anthony: I didn’t.
Me: You asked her if she was going home and she took the hint!
Anthony: She’s not you.
Okay, so my mother is out of the competition but there is still Mary to worry about – haha!