Friday, 10 June 2022

Immigrant Alzheimer's

is how it was described to me.

I spent part of yesterday going to the doctor with an elderly acquaintance. Her doctor's receptionist phoned earlier in the week and asked if I would make sure she attended the appointment. This has been done before but this time the receptionist told me, "Doctor has asked me to tell you that she may need some support."

I didn't need to be told why. Some months ago she forgot to light the gas under a saucepan. Fortunately one of the neighbours went in and found out before it was too late. There have been other little things. At first we put it down to stress because of the war in Ukraine which, so she told us, reminded her of the war in Holland. But in the last seven weeks there have been other things as well.  The neighbours have been watching. One of them disabled her car after seeing her driving down the wrong side of the road. She lost her purse in the supermarket. One of the young girls in there found it in the freezer cabinet.

Three times in the last two weeks she has spoken to me in Dutch although her English has always been excellent. Even then she has struggled sometimes with the names of things. 

We went to the medical appointment together. She fussed a bit about this but didn't refuse to allow me to go with her. I slipped a note to the receptionist to give the doctor before we went in. I listed the other things I had noted and added "Alzheimer's?"

When she was called in to his room he said gently to her, "Perhaps you would like Cat to come in with you this time."

She looked at him and looked at me. The expression on her face was one which will stay with me for a very long time. She knew what he was going to say.

The problem is that she has nobody in this country. When she migrated with her husband they planned a large family. They never had children. She worked but retirement was twenty-three years ago. Her husband died fifteen years or more ago. Their rather fundamentalist church abandoned her on his death and the loss of the income they brought to it.. Since then she has lived alone. Her days have been spent gardening, doing craft work - and, I suspect, watching television in the sense she has sat and stared at the screen. 

"I want to go home," she told us. By "home" she did not mean the house she lives in but the country she came from. 

We talked about this because I know she still has a much younger sister in Holland. They communicate sporadically. We went back to her house here. She found the address for me. I did some on-line research and found both a phone number and an email address. I passed both on to the doctor's receptionist. Then I sat there and tried to work out what I should say in the email I was sending at A-M...'s request.  I wrote it in English and then wondered if I should also translate some of it into Dutch. I phoned a Dutch friend and told her the problem. 

"I'll be right over Cat. I am sure she will read English but it might be nicer for her to have the news the other way."

And so we sent the message off. This morning there is an email in my mail box. It is simple. "I am coming. I will bring her home." 

A-M... is going to go "home". I wonder what it will be like for her. 

1 comment:

kayT said...

The ending of this story has some relief in it for me. Not a "happy ending" but a relief.