Today I spent the day with my parents. Nothing unusual there I hear you say, except that my Mum and Dad are both resident in a nursing home and Christmas to them, is just like any other time of the year.
My Dad will be 88 shortly and is still a sprightly, well-dressed man who loves any excuse for a gin and tonic. Every day after his lunch, he gets spruced up to go and see Mum where she resides in the Alzheimer unit of the home. He polishes his shoes, puts on a clean shirt with a suit and tie, and then he’s ready for his outing of the day. Sadly, his short-term memory has completely deserted him and by the time he’s ready to go, he’s often forgotten the purpose of his mission. His memory loss causes him great confusion and anxiety. He has to be escorted to visit Mum to make sure he reaches his destination, and that he comes back safely again.
My Mum turned 80 recently. She’s been in the nursing home for over three years with a slow deterioration into dementia and physical impairment. She’s completely immobile at this stage and is barely able to sit propped up in a wheelchair. She has a tough time getting through each day but she still manages to smile and say thank-you to everyone who helps her. Thankfully she still recognises me as her daughter and yet whenever she introduces me to someone else, I suddenly become her twin sister. It makes for some interesting reactions and lots of laughs too.
I had great plans to do some Christmas shopping today after my visit to the nursing home, but it was not to be. My Mum was having one of those days where extra time, and reassurance, was needed. Dad too was in a muddle about almost everything. I sat with them both while Mum dozed in and out of sleep and each time she woke, she smiled with delight to see us there. My Dad enjoyed a gin and tonic which we rescued from the muddle of his bedside locker and we chatted away together all afternoon, with the same topics coming round and round.
This Christmas no amount of shopping will make life any easier for my parents. Their needs are few, but precious. My gift to them this year cannot be bought or packaged. Like that advert for a well-known brand of cider, they need nothing added but time.