A Better Place

I knew the moment I walked into the dementia unit at the nursing home that something had changed. My mother was up and dressed and sitting in her wheelchair beside the window. I settled down beside her to chat and it was only then that I realised what was different… one of the long term residents was missing and her possessions were all neatly piled on top of her bed. Poor Hannah* had died during the night.

The other residents of the unit were all sitting staring into space as per normal and while they appeared oblivious to the fact that one of their own was no more, a sombre mood was palpable. Looking at them sitting in silence, I found it hard not to ponder over who’s turn it will be next… for that is the reality of this unit.

Alzheimer patients slowly fade away, it’s like a living death as bit by bit they withdraw from the world. The staff of this unit are very supportive of the families. We are like one big family who are on a difficult journey together and everyone supports one another. When a bereavement occurs, it affects everyone in the unit.

When Hannah’s family arrived to collect her belongings this afternoon, the sense of togetherness was powerful. We all hugged and shed a few tears and remembered the good times together. We’ve come to know each other well over the years and today’s farewell was a reminder that one day my turn will also come, to say goodbye.

My mother is one of the few residents in this unit that can still hold a conversation although she has great difficulty processing her thoughts. She loves to listen to the staff chatting as they work and will occasionally chip in with her penny’s worth.

Today, when I was discussing Hannah’s demise with the staff, my mother suddenly joined in and asked “well, is she better yet“?

I looked at her and smiled. “Hannah’s in a better place now, Mum, don’t you worry” and she smiled back at me happily.

Rest in Peace, Hannah.

* denotes a name change.

9 Responses to A Better Place

  1. Madsadgirl says:

    Lovely post, Steph.

  2. Baino says:

    So sad Steph. Yet there must be some sort of sigh of relief when this is all over. At least your mum can articulate even if thought processing is a little off balance. She sounds like she’s in as pleasant a place as she can be and it must be very consoling to know that there are kind and friendly people around her.

  3. Steph says:

    Cheers! MSG – it was one of those posts that sort of wrote itself. I just did the typing 😀

    Baino – it was funny mixture of emotions yesterday. Part of me was feeling sad for the relatives in their time of loss and another part was slightly envying them that their journey with dementia was over. I don’t look forward to the day when my mum can no longer communicate although knowing her, I’d say she’ll smile to the end and a smile says a great deal.

    Yesterday, I took her outside for some fresh air which she loves but moving from place to place, completely disorientates her so that by the time we get back to the unit, she’s ‘lost’ and this throws her emotionally. I cannot praise the staff highly enough for the way they look after everyone in the unit. My mum is totally dependent on them for her every move and needs huge amounts of reassurance which they supply in bucket loads.

  4. Grannymar says:

    I tough day indeed. In a place like the unit you become part of a different world and the relatives become very close. You feel grief for the bereaved family, and indeed for yourself, knowing that each day brings the final parting closer.

    The blessing is that your mum is loved, cared for and made as comfortable as possible. You are near enough to see her every week and I am sure she appreciates your visits.

    Hugs,

  5. Steph says:

    Thanks GM – when I took my Mum outside yesterday, we collected my father from his unit and he walked back with us to the dementia unit. He needs an escort wherever he goes as his short term memory is appalling. When the time came for me to say goodbye to them both, my mother became agitated about being left and in an effort to reassure her, I said “sure Dad’s here, he’ll keep you company”. To which my father replied “Am I not getting the bus home with you?” *sigh*

  6. Bendy Girl says:

    That was a very moving post, thank you Steph. RIP Hannah. BG x

  7. Steph says:

    Thanks BG – it came from the heart. I’m in no doubt that Hannah has gone to a better place. And the sad reality is, there are lots more ‘Hannahs’ waiting to take her place!

  8. Thank you for the post. I would like to get my medical students to read it.

    JD.

  9. Steph says:

    JD – welcome and thanks! I’m honoured to hear that.

    I can well imagine that AD is a difficult one for med students to get their heads around so if my experience helps in the understanding of it, that’s brilliant. The world of dementia is a frightening and bewildering place for sufferers and it’s a huge learning curve for their carers. I’m really lucky in that my mother is in very good hands 24/7 so I’m able to enjoy my time with her, and she with me.

    Here is a link to a superb documentary featuring a husband caring alone at home, for his wife who has AD. This dedication takes some beating.

    I hope the link works for you as it’s insightful stuff…

    https://biopsy.wordpress.com/2008/07/24/how-great-thou-art/

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