This week Barry neither lowered himself out a tight window, nor bounded over a six foot fence. Indeed, all was quiet. One of the sobering moments of living with someone who has dementia, is the realisation that you are actually waiting for it to get worse. The hardest time is when they have moments of organised, reflective thought when they remember their previous life and the detritus they no longer have around them. It is only for a brief, shining moment ... and then the slide back into the greystorm resumes. Today Baz was quite good. Or perhaps it was that I had more patience. No no. I think it was that he was more settled. He has been in his own, single room for 8 days now. He can close the door. He has HIS things on the wall. He has his own television. He has his won computer. Today I showed him how to turn the television on and off, and where to sit to maximise the quality of the picture. He indicated he could not hear it very well, yet did not want the volume up because it might disturb others. Iasked if he would like a set of head-phones and that was a positive. I will find a way of hanging them up on the wall to keep them away from 'sticky-fingers'. The taxi-driver, Reg, now picks me up from Fassifern Station when the train gets in at 8:34am and I am out at Catalina a bit before 9am. Reg arrives at 12:30pm for the return journey to Fassifern to meet the 12:56pm inter-city train to Central. This gives me time to unwide, as the time in the home requires a lot of self-control, hail-fellow-well-met, and, surprisingly, acting.
Today, Barry and I mooched around in his room till just on 11am, so well-nigh two hours. I checked on how he was feeling about his lodgings. He said he guessed this was his home now, but wondered (fleetingly) what had happened to all the stuff he used to have. This is where the self-control came in. He had the blanket I gave him last week folded double on his bed, and was in raptures, even though the entire facility is air-conditioned to buggery! It turns out, that it was not warmth that he was lacking but WEIGHT! I think, with the private room, and the extra weight, he is sleeping longer, and hence the early morning heebie-jeebie are not as fearsome.
I put up more family photos for him, and have an idea of more for next week. I shall try to take photos of his room to let you all see. I also put up some posters of Monet and Picasso. It was while I was doing this, that he started to talk about his painting. He wondered where his gear was that he used to have. Hey prsto! In his cupboard. I brought it all out, and we set up an artists 'table' for use from his comfortable chair. Robyn got him a small easel. He worries constantly about other residents coming in and helping themselves to things. So we put the painting table behind the door. They do come in, and swear blind this is their room. They do take things. They do deposit things. They are demented. This is what people with dementia do. It is not stealing. However, Barry is convinced all the others are only demented when it suits their purposes. This is where both self-contol AND acting come in.
I tried to talk him into starting another canvas on the spot. But he insisted that he needs to work it out in pencil first ... and he did not want to do that today because his sister was visiting. Talk about being hoist on petards. So, I got him to turn on the computer. No matter what I do with the password, he cannot remember it, or remember where he put it. But he cannot read anyway, so shall ask my nephew if it is possible to remove the Windows password requirement. I got him onto a paint-by-numbers programme. It was a bit fiddlely this particular one, but shall try another next week. He got the hang of it and did not appear bored. Then we moved onto the card game, Solitaire. I am not sure he could do this without someone assisting over his shoulder. But shall do it again next week. Will try to remember to take him a Daily Telegraph next week. Has a good sized font, low comprehension age, and lots of photographs and drawings.
He kept on explaining to me how the nurses could attach connected 'bolts' to the door, so that the demented people could not work out how to enter his room. His room is at the end of the 'ambling' corridor so there is often a traffic jam outside.
Baz keeps on repeating 'Anyway, it's good to see you again, Sis'. When this becomes his main line of converstation, I know it is time to take him for a walk. So he got his cap - his large sunhat has gone missing again - and we ambled out into the sunshine. We actually did not go far this time, but mainly talked. He responded, in a fashion to many of my prompts. I find it fascinating that someone with a brain injury, which is akin in its effects to vascular dementia, has the ability to embroider a story so well. There are some stories he tells, where I do no have recall of the facts as I was not involved. However, he was telling me about his time in the RAAF, his posting to Woomera, and the process of his leaving the airforce. His story bears little or no resemblance to the facts as I experienced them. Nothing about going AWOL, living incognito, below the bread-line in Tasmania for most of 1966. Nothing about being picked up by the Military Police and being incarcerated in Holdsworthy until released by the Minister of Defence, Fairhall, after a special plead by the Archbishop of Newcastle, Housden. We sat on a bench, with the lake before us, and a walking path snaking past. Three kookaburras scavannged for worms from overhanging branches of the dying gum-trees. He talked and I listened. At midday, we moseyed on back, and went to check out his pea seedlings. And there has been progress with the garden. He now has a range of pansies, and geraniums and primulas planted (hence the dirty fingernails). He is putting the peas haphazardly in between, but what the heck.
So, it is progress of a sort. I must endeavour to keep my goals within the realms of possibility. If he is not jumping fences, then I guess my goals are achieved.