My father has no short-term memory. He’s otherwise in pretty good shape for an 89 year old but his memory, has failed him. Dad moved into full-time residential care some years ago as he requires constant reassurance and supervision. The nursing home routine suits him well but even after all this time, he still hasn’t a clue where he is. Each evening he tells the nurses that he’s lost and asks if he can have a bed for the night. He meticulously records in his diary that he’s “in hospital for night”. His only other regular diary entry, is a note to “ring Steph” but sadly, at this stage he’s even forgotten how to do that.
Everything is news to Dad. He cannot remember that my mother is in the same nursing home although he visits her almost every day. His eyes always light up when I tell him she’s just down the corridor. Dad may not be able to remember much but he still bares all the same characteristics and his powers of observation are as sharp as ever. He’s been a dapper dresser all his life and still insists on putting on a jacket and tie to visit my Mum. His bedside is littered with scraps of paper where he’s written down jumbled thoughts from his mind. One of the hallmarks of dementia is a deep suspicion of others and so my Dad tends to hide his possessions. A quick check of his belongings usually reveals a banana hidden in a shoe and his bedside clock can be found in his wash kit along with several yoghurts and hundreds of biros. Quite a magpie, is my Dad!
The one thing that hasn’t changed with my father is his ability to enjoy company. He loves joking with the nurses and especially the female ones. He is always deeply appreciative of family visits and loves to hear news of the ‘outside world’. While words often fail him, it hasn’t stopped him enjoying hugs and close physical contact. We gad about the place together with arms linked and hands entwined as we laugh and chat. While it’s sad to watch my father deteriorate, I shall always be grateful that we’ve had this precious time together.
If you haven’t already come across ‘Days with my Father‘, I highly recommend it to you. It’s a poignant photographic journal created by Phillip Toledano as an record of his own father. The resemblance to my father, is uncanny.