The Dementia Diaries pt 3 – by Eve Grace
A sense of humour helps when caring for someone with dementia, as our resident author Eve Grace knows only too well. Read her latest instalment of the Dementia Diaries exclusively here at the Ambiance Care blog – we promise it’ll bring a smile to your face!
It was a crisp winter’s afternoon when we made our way over to see my grandma Joan in her new care home. She’d moved out of the area from the state care home to be closer to family in Cheshire, and her new place was something of an upgrade.
A cosy, house-based facility, the new care home only had six beds, so it was much calmer and more peaceful than the last place. The resident ladies – all of them lovely – would spend their time dozing in the lounge with classic films playing in the background. Not much to do but it was clean and homely, with more than enough staff to meet everyone’s needs.
Bob, the manager, always seemed to be on hand. About my age – late 30s – Bob was slim and casually dressed, wore glasses and had an unmistakeable campness about him. When Bob wasn’t around, another chap would fill in – Paul, a tall, quiet and somewhat rotund gent in his early 50s.
Today, Bob was on duty and greeted us as we arrived – I’d brought along my 14-year-old daughter Niamh to see her great-grandma, and all the other ladies too, who seemed to enjoy the company of a youngster.
After half an hour of general chitchat between ourselves and the other ladies in the sitting room, Joan piped up that she’d like to go for a cigarette. A smoker for decades, Joan enjoyed nothing more than “a fag and a brandy”. It wasn’t quite time for her evening double but the cigarette was something I could indulge her.
Using her walking frame (a constant fixture since being discharged from hospital), Joan shuffled to the door – pausing momentarily on the way for regular reminders of where she was going and why. We got as far as her room, stopped to wrap her up in her coat and scarf, and made our way outside.
I directed Joan to a chair under the porch – the most sheltered spot from which to watch the softly falling snow – and she sat down carefully, lighting up her beloved cigarette, taking a drag and exhaling with a contented chuckle. Niamh took the seat next to her great-grandma and Joan surveyed her approvingly.
“You know, there are some lovely young men working here – you’d like them,” Joan said to Niamh, with a twinkle in her eye. Niamh forced back a polite yet sheepish smile.
Niamh was 14 and had only recently started to take a passing interest in the boys at her school, never mind the middle-aged staff at the care home.
I couldn’t quite believe my ears and let out a gasp.
Joan looked surprised. “Well, it’s just that she’s getting to that age,” she said, waving her cigarette about flippantly.
“Grandma, she’s 14! The men who work here are middle aged!”
“Not all of them,” she replied reasonably. Well, it would have been reasonable if it were true.
“Yes, all of them – there are only two, and one of them is a gay man!”
“What?!” Joan’s eyes widened for a moment. “Well, anyway…” she trailed off, deep in thought.
The subject was swiftly changed and Joan finished her cigarette shortly after. Getting up to go back inside, Joan narrowed her eyes behind her glasses and pointed straight ahead. “Is that Eric?” she asked, gesturing to a carved wooden bear sculpture several metres away.
“Erm, is it? I’m not sure,” I responded uncertainly, unsure of who Eric could be – unless she’d named the bear.
“Yes, it’s Eric!” Joan beamed. “Hi Eric, bye Eric!” she called, and waved at the little bear. Niamh looked amused and I gave her a nonplussed shrug and a grin.
We took Joan back inside and into the sitting room, where Bob was sitting on one of the sofas with another resident.
“Bob,” I whispered, “Joan’s been trying to marry you off to my 14-year-old daughter,” I gave him a wink and he exploded into fits of laughter, which set off the other ladies in the room – including Joan, although none of them had the foggiest why.
Time for another eye test?!