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carers, communication

In my simplistic, layman's mind, I visualise my husband’s particular, mixed dementia as a huge, underground labyrinth of long, dark, mysterious, twisting tunnels. This disturbs me greatly, particularly perhaps because I am severely claustrophobic.

When Robert wanders off into the tunnels, I am distraught with anxiety, fearing that this time he will get lost, for good, and that I will never find him again. He travels backwards on his time machine, and to numerous locations, on his magic carpet. I just cannot keep track.

Fortunately, for now at least, he does, after some hours or days, emerge unscathed, and as though he has never been off on a journey at all.

I earnestly wish that I could have some sort of hypothetical reins to put on him, much as we used to put reins on toddlers, to prevent them from wandering off into danger.

Instead, I try to engage him, occupy his mind, so that he will forget about the lure of the damned tunnels. This is occasionally quite rewarding, and sometimes we can actually have an abstract conversation. He can even be sharp, witty and funny.

Today, for instance, after his mind had been on walkabout for quite some time, I asked, (apropos of what, I cannot remember, probably something on the TV),

Me: “If you were an animal, what would you like to be?”

R:    “An antelope”.

Me:  “Oh, I don't know much about antelopes. Do they hunt?”

R:     “No, of course not. They eat grass”

Me:  “Oh. So they are herbivores?”

R:     “Yes”

Me:   “So why an antelope? What is wrong with just being a cow?”

R:      “What! And carry those great udders around all day? It must be so  painful, particularly at milking time. The udders actually bang against the cows legs as it walks. It's a wonder the milk doesn't come out as cheese.”

My delighted reaction was a silent plea. Oh, please, please, please my love, stay with me and talk to me for ever, and keep away from those tunnels which separate us.

That is the selfishness in me.

To me, the tunnels must be a place of sheer terror, but I have to concede that when Robert explores them, he does so either in the imagined company of, or to visit, his long lost family, whom he loved dearly. Who knows what joy, or comfort, he finds there?


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