Saturday, 6 February 2016

"I've been diagnosed with Alzheimer's,"

the Senior Cat's closest friend told him yesterday.
It did not surprise me. I have been expecting this news. The signs were there some time ago. He would "forget" things. He would go off to do something on their small hills property and come back without having done it. He gets confused over something simple like making a phone call. When he talks to the Senior Cat there are silences - as if he has wandered off into a different place. 
A man who has always been able to use words with great skill he has now lost the ability to tell a joke and sometimes forgets a word.
The Senior Cat has known him for more than sixty years. They taught in the same school early on and then supported each other through their similar careers. 
He is the godfather of my youngest sister. 
Many years ago I babysat every Tuesday evening so that he could go to a lecture and his wife could go to orchestra practice. Like the Senior Cat and many others of that era they had to finish their degrees the hard way - part time and at their own expense. Over the years I have also remained close to them. 
They came here as migrants so their friends are their extended "family".
They live just a little too far away for us to get to them easily. He has stopped driving. His wife only likes to drive locally. They also live outside the closest town. It's time to move and they know it but they can't afford to move to the sort of accommodation they really need - where they would get the support they need. 
It is times like this I would like to be "rich" - rich in the sense that I  had enough disposable income to be able to quietly buy the sort of accommodation they need and anonymously offer them the  chance to move. I'd like to be able to afford the taxi fares so that the Senior Cat could go and visit his friend.
It's not going to happen of course so I will do the next best thing - if his  wife needs to phone me and just talk, I'll try to be there.  And I'll try to listen to her and the Senior Cat as they remember what it was like when the Senior Cat's friend cannot remember.


Jan said...

Cat, your father's friend may well remember many things as the Alzheimers progresses and even be able to converse intelligently about them. My Dad had it too and mum looked after him for many years before we moved him to a nursing home as it was becoming physically impossible for her to continue and she was near a breakdown herself. We had many forms of help for her, but eventually it was too much.

Dad was worried at first about things he could not do or think of. A teacher, he used to draw up yearly timetables for the High School he was at. Before the days of computer help, he did this himself. No mistakes with students, staff or rooms. He topped his year in a horticulture class he did as an interest over several years. He did his degree by himself after school. He was worried when he knew that he should remember the name of a tree but could not. As things went downhill it was the family who were unhappy. Dad no longer knew things were wrong. I visited the home not long after the move. He told me mum was shopping and would be back soon.

There was a young nurse for whom we were most grateful. He and dad became friends, unusual for dad. He was kind and compassionate and would spend time talking to dad. He was able to draw from dad stories of his life in 1930s. Teacher training, Army Intelligence work during the war, teenage rambles in the bush at the back of Lithgow and much more. Dad's longterm memory was fine. It was the short term which was affected. Before going in to the home, he made breakfast three times, not realising he had already eaten.

Everyday lif was hard. Dad had walked miles every day. He would come downstairs at night in an ill assorted bunch of clothes, determined to go out. Door would be locked and key hidden. He tried to light a fire in his wardrobe which he thought looked like a good chimney. No idea of what to do to turn shower on and much more.

It is a cruel disease, worse on the family than the sufferer once it really takes hold.

catdownunder said...

Yes, at the moment he can remember the more distant past (although I notice he is sometimes confused about it) but the short term is going rapidly - even from the beginning of a short conversation to the end. He's 88 so I expect the progression to be rapid. The Senior Cat has just turned 93 and is still very alert so it's hard on him seeing his closest friend deteriorate like this. It must have been really hard on your mother - and the rest of you.