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Trying to hang on to a can-do mindset

Sod you, Ms Alzheimer’s. Time for some positive thinking. Whatever you say and do there are still, at the moment, plenty of things My Loved One continues to do quite happily. Here are ten of them.

He can still:

  • walk the mile from our house to Beckenham alone (and come home safely!) and do a job when he gets there – provided he doesn’t have more than one purpose. So he can take a parcel to the post office, buy some biscuits in M&S or get his hair cut – but not more than one of them. If he tries to do both X and Y, one or other will be forgotten.
  • remember routes provided he’s known them for a long time. Driving from Elephant and Castle to Waterloo the other day, I was thrown by an unexpected road sign and turned the wrong way. “It’s OK,” MLO said, quick as a flash, “there’s a roundabout round the next bend. Then you can peel off to the right towards Waterloo Bridge.” Spot on.
  • recognise everyone we know and greet them by name although it was very funny the other day when our second granddaughter popped her head unexpectedly round the dining room door where we were breakfasting. (Her dad has a key and had come to do some work in the house but he weren’t expecting his lovely daughter). She was wearing dark glasses and her father’s company uniform and for a moment neither of us recognised her.
  • enjoy a favourite meal and eat very well. It’s a joy to see him enthusiastically tucking into, say, sautée potatoes and fried eggs. He also eats things that he’s always refused to touch in the past such as tomatoes and beetroots – bit of a bonus from the cook’s point of view.
  • trundle his old chap’s trolley to the supermarket and buy most of what’s required reasonably efficiently – provided it’s a fairly short list and he can go at his own adagio pace. I now have all the bulky stuff delivered and send him just to choose, for example, nice apples.
  • quote poetry and songs he learned as a child such as The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck, Ozymandias and some filthy ditty he learned in the Scouts in which “venus” rhymes with “penis” – well you can’t expect callow, pubescent youth to have mastered the finer points of poetics.
  • do lots of household tasks provided they are very clearly explained and assigned one at a time. “Can you go and collect the windfall plums and put them in the compost bin please?” or “How about you vacuum cleaning the inside of the car?” are fine but it’s no good asking him to do first one and then the other in the same conversation. It’s very much like dealing with a child on the autism spectrum. In fact, isn’t about time someone researched the similarities between autism and Alzheimer’s?
  • get me a cup of tea. A non-tea-drinker himself, MLO has twice in the past week got out of bed while I’m still sleeping off the previous night’s show and subsequent late night review and returned with a mug of tea. Bit heavy handed with the milk and not all that hot because he moves pretty slowly but I’m touched that a) he thinks of it and b) still makes a reasonable fist of doing it.
  • get a lot of pleasure from a walk round the park. It’s a simple thing but he likes seeing trees, wildlife, flowers, children having fun and all the rest of it. There’s a circular walk round Beckenham Place Park we do fairly often and this week we revisited Horniman’s for the first time since we moved back to our native South London last year. It all helps with fitness too which is meant to be a way of helping to distance Ms A.
  • Make me laugh. Quite often there’s flash of how he used to be. He’ll come out with some silly pun or a chunk of WS Gilbert (who had a witty comment on almost everything) and we giggle together. Long may it last.
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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