Sunday, 26 April 2015

Everyday is...

Everyday is....this.
I'm promoting the films "Everyday is Alzheimer's" currently and it's made me think about the everyday....everyday....

I took this photograph in the evening. But it could have been 9 am. Or lunchtime. Or mid-afternoon.
Because every day, every hour for Okaasan is the same. She sits or stretches out between the sofa and the heated table, with a blanket over her - and clothes and papers and bags all around.
Sometimes I clean. Take up a layer of paper and clothing. Remove the rotting food and important letters. Leave the rest.

This IS Okaasan's world.
And I expect this scene is repeated in the homes of many dementia sufferers.

Okaasan is experiencing this moment. "Later" she will tidy up, or put that away. Always "later". Meanwhile, the familiar things are all in sight and can be reached easily. She can pick up the same things and look at them for a few moments. Watch a bit of Tv. Then pick up the same things again. Sleep. Wake up. Tv. Look. Sleep.
Apart from going to the toilet and coming to the kitchen for food - when Okaasan is at home she is here. She has two rooms. But hardly stirs from here.
It looks awful to us: we feel the need to clean and tidy. Make it 'nice again'. Is she leaving it like this because she lacks the energy - mental and physical - to do anything about it? Where to start? Depressed about doing it?
If I offer to help...she gets very stressed, picks things up and puts them down in quick succession, nervous that something important will be thrown away.
 But I stress about it myself less now. It's Okaasan's familiar nest and I don't disturb her. Just let her be.

Recently an 80 year old student went to visit an old friend who she knew from the mountain climbing club. My student is still an active member of the club. And the church choir. And her residential community. And. And .And. Everyday rushing around doing things.
Her dementia-free life is so different from Okaasan.

My student's friend is 90 plus and living in a care home in the hills near the city. Still recognizing family members and visitors, but needing help for feeding and toilet etc. Repeat stories, locked away in the 1920s Japan of her youth.

My student was sad after the visit: "From the care home you can see the lights of the city, but it is far away. There is nothing around there. She must be so lonely and sad. I NEVER want to live in such a place. Her family say she is 'happy'...but..."

I wonder. I suspect her friend is happy in her own way. 
Now her world is her room, the care home dining room, bathroom, living room. The blanket. The TV. The smiles from staff. The flower in the windowsill. The magazine.

A much smaller world. But giving her reassurance and pleasure in every day.

She has no concept of "I haven't been out to the shops for weeks", no concept of being away from the city. I am guessing.

Here and now. This moment.
Everyday is Alzheimer's.


  1. Ahh...thankyou! I sway between being all kind and non-judgmental about the this post - and handwringingly despairing about it!!