Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Yesterday , Tomorrow, Where Are We?

I had to go into hospital yesterday for some pre-op checks.

It seems I am in very rude health. Perfect blood pressure, no previous medical history, correct weight for my height….the nurse said I was lovely and straightforward !! She sent me off for a chest x-ray and some blood tests and assuming they come back normal, all will go ahead as planned, tomorrow.

While I was waiting for my blood tests ( I took ticket no 89 and they were only on 51 when I arrived!), an old lady was wheeled into place opposite me by her carer who then sat next to her. They both smiled at me and I noticed that the lady in the wheelchair was well-dressed and she sat up straight and proud and was well-spoken.

She asked her carer what the number on the ticket was and was told 93 and she noted that they were in for a long wait. The newspaper that was in her lap then slipped off her knees and fell in front of me. I picked it up and handed it to her with a smile and she thanked me very graciously. She handed it to her carer and asked her to read some of the articles out which the carer did and they talked about some of the stories.

I was quite fascinated by the two of them.

In between the reading, the old lady asked a couple of times what the number was on the ticket but the carer didn’t answer which I thought was a little rude. A little while later, I noticed the woman was not sitting so straight but had slumped a little in her chair. While her carer was reading, she pulled her sleeve and asked “what time is your appointment?” The carer said “There’s no time – it’s not an appointment.” “Oh” said the old lady “what is it then?” “It’s a blood test remember and it’s for you, not me.” The old lady’s eyes widened and the carer patted her on the knee and reassured her that it would be OK and over very quickly but they just had to wait a while first and then the old lady seemed to slump in her chair and stared at the floor while the carer just continued to read the newspaper quietly to herself.

I felt very anxious all of a sudden.

Then, about ten minutes later, the old lady sat up straight in her chair again and started to talk about one of the stories in the paper. I can’t remember the details but it was something about a man being sacked when his employer found out he was gay and she gave her opinions on why that was so wrong and had a very eloquent discussion with the carer about employment law and human rights. She broke it off to ask what number was on the ticket and was again ignored and then she suddenly asked where Brian was. Her carer asked “Brian? You mean your husband? He’s not with us anymore.” “Why?” asked the old lady. “Is he up in London?” “No” said the carer “He died a while back, didn’t he.” The old lady looked confused and then anger flashed across her face as she said “What a wicked thing to say. You’re a horrid girl. I shan’t talk to you any more.” And she sat staring at the floor again while the carer continued to read the paper.

I finally got it then.

It had taken a while to figure out as the old lady had seemed so proper. I bet she was a teacher once, even a headmistress but I guess dementia doesn’t care about the past.

Number 89 finally flashed up and I walked away as the old lady, forgetting her anger, asked what number ticket they had……


  1. I met lots of old ladies like that when I used to work in a care home some years ago. It's so sad. But really the carer would have been better off not to contradict her but to jolly her along. I know that seems dishonest but the truth about her husband can only hurt her... and then 10 minutes later she could be asking where he is all over again. It's such a shame. Dementia is a horrible disease.

  2. ah a sad state...i think this is something i am most scared of...losing my mind and maybe never even realising it...sad to watch happen...hope that tests went well you are going to do fine...

  3. Dudelet, little elf (who was sleeping) and I met someone who'd obviously wandered off and got lost. She was very gentle and quite lucid but clearly was 'hopping' from one point in the timestream to another. Every now and then she'd realise that things were confused and ask if we knew were she lived. Eventually, two ambulance crew came along who managed her with tremendous tact. She briefly laid claim to little elf (asleep in her pram) which was a worrying moment. Sigh. Please, not like that.

  4. Nice post: I was there... about three rows back, number 101. I'm of an age when if any of my friends ask me something twice or have difficulty remembering what they did last week I start getting worried. I keep saying "keep busy" which worries my wife.

  5. I'm with Steve on this - my elderly dad lived with us for a few years in France and when he asked me absurd things (e.g. what time is my flying lesson?) I'd just play along with it. It does save a lot of upset in the short term.

    I'm trying to become a care assistant actually and your post seemed quite a coincidental one (in view of the post I just this moment wrote).

    How lovely anyway to be the perfect weight for your height - that's only happened to me once - the day I was born!

  6. Hope all goes well :)
    I don't want to grow old too quickly.

  7. Oh, how dreadfully sad.

  8. I read somewhere that you're meant to go along with it, the questions to them seem very real and often they are just trying to make sense of their surroundings. The carer sounds like maybe it was getting near the end of her shift or perhaps the wrong person for that job. It seems such a sad way to end one's life without being able to reflect back on it. Hope all goes well with you. xx