Sorry, who are you?

I have a relative recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I won’t go into too much detail as I have some family members who don’t like family business going on the world-wide web. But, it is a horrible condition and I’d actually written some poems about it a while ago. Remember on Coronation Street a while ago when Eileen’s bloke Paul had a wife with Alzheimer’s? I became quite interested then and wrote a poem from, in this case, the woman’s point of view and then the carer’s/male’s point of view.

Last weekend, when I visited my relative, he didn’t know who I was. 😦 You can prepare yourself for this all you like, but you are never fully prepared for that look they give you. No recognition. No love. Just blankness. He also thought I was another relative dressed up as someone else in order to fool him. I was caught between laughing and crying. It is difficult because you don’t know how much you should try and jog their memory. He was getting frustrated you see, as he knew he should know who I was.

It made me think of my poems again. See what you think:

Sorry, who are you?

(From a wife with dementia to her husband)

‘Sorry, who are you?

I like that picture.

Yes I’d like some orange

 Juice.’

‘Sorry, who are you?

I like you a lot but

why have you given

me orange juice?’

‘Sorry, who are you?

I hate that picture!

Let me tell you a story. It’s

really funny.

‘Sorry, who are you?

I don’t feel like telling a

story, I just want to go home!

Sorry, who are you?

Where is my orange juice?

I’m parched, I want it now!

It’s meant to be a rambling poem in terms of the form, structure and content. A lot of repetition and forgetfulness  – as these are the kind of things you here in the old folks’ home. Here’s the husband’s response:

I remember who you used to be

(A reply, to the woman with dementia, from her husband)

I remember who you used to be,
so happy and content and carefree.
Taking care of others then,
And we always watched the news at ten.

Your long hair flowing, you took such pride,
No imperfections, then, that you had to hide.

Now I take care of you
Since it took over, I have to.
I don’t resent it but it’s not easy,
‘cos I remember how you used to be.

Your eyes showed a knowing smile,
Your clothes sang an elegant style,
Your chatter and laughter filled the room,
From that day we were bride and groom.

Now, you glance the room, as if it’s not home,
But it was you who made it, made it our own.
I still love you as ever before
Even when you forget who we are,

I can get by each day you see,
because I remember how you used to be.

They still need a bit of work but I think they capture the thoughts and feelings overall. At the old folks’ homes I visit, you really do see some funny habits. There is one woman, who used to be a head teacher. She, now, patrols the corridors of the home all day, closing windows, moving things, checking on people, telling them they are smart etc. It is like she has regressed to that job role now. Once a head teacher, always a head teacher. Sad as it is, she seems happy. It was funny when I last went, because she put her head around the corner and gestured me to come to her with a pointed finger – just like a teacher would to a naughty pupil. I was tempted to go, but she soon forgot and walked off!

There is another woman, who is lovely. She sits there all day and it amazes me because she has her hair done nicely, wears her jewellery and smart clothes. One day, she said to me, ‘excuse me, can I say something? Aren’t you pretty?’ That was nice to hear and I thought ‘ooh I like coming here!’ Another day, she started the same, ‘Can I say something?’  I thought to myself, ‘ooh the compliment’s coming again.’ But she said,’ your husband is really handsome.’ Haha, it was his turn that day, ‘my husband.’ I had to check she didn’t mean my dad! But, luckily, she did mean my partner!

I recommend going to an old folks’ home if you can. It is great to go and talk to someone, even if just for half an hour. It brightens up their day. My boyfriend’s mum visits one of her relatives regularly and now takes her puppy border collie. He has a profound effect and made the old people interactive – and one woman spoke to the dog, who hadn’t spoke in years!

So people with dementia can still have a good quality of life, they need understanding and visits and patience. And a relative in disguise occasionally it seems! 😉

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Abhishek
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 12:05:35

    Touching.. wonderful lines…

    Reply

  2. Tina Holmes
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 15:03:55

    It is often so hard to go to the old folks home but worth the effort for the good times….

    Reply

  3. indytony
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 01:06:10

    “I can get by each day you see,
    because I remember how you used to be.”

    Very moving lines.

    Reply

    • Sam Gray
      Mar 20, 2013 @ 07:34:03

      Thank you, I think it could be more moving if I had experinced a partner going through it – but having a relative at all with it helps. Thanks for reading! x

      Reply

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