Regular readers of this blog and my tweets will know that I have an elderly grandmother who's gradually requiring more and more attention. Notable posts on this subject are: 'One Personal Sensation Story' and 'Don't Read - You're Too Old!'.
Recently, her capability seems to have slipped steeply. She was suddenly unable to 'deal with' the television and the phone and, most of all, the days when she was forced to leave her flat. She hates it there but she worries about not being ready to go for an appointment to the point where she calls us and my aunt a dozen times in a short period. We have an answering machine which captures the calls while we're eating etc but my aunt doesn't. Equally, while we nearly always answer the phone, my aunt seems to think that ignoring it and getting on with her own life is best. I must admit, the phone calls wear at my patience, particularly the lovely one I had at quarter-past six the other morning, but I'll gladly sleep with the phone in my room if it means that, one, my dad isn't disturbed in the middle of the night and, two, she doesn't get too distressed by not being able to get through to someone.
You see, that's another problem. She's now taken to wandering around the sheltered accommodation in the middle of the night because she's deteriorating to the point where she can't connect what she sees on the clock with reality. If it's still dark outside, she panics. She particularly panics when she's got something on that she thinks she's missed. For example, she had an appointment on a Friday morning. She was being picked up at ten o'clock in the morning but she was so frightened about sleeping in that she had a shower at seven o'clock the evening before, got dressed in her appointment clothes then slept in the armchair in her clean clothes. Inevitably, she woke in the middle of the night disorientated and was caught wandering around (or banged on some doors nearby, we don't know for sure) by neighbours. She's now a source of gossip for people that she didn't really get on with in the first place. She's sobbing down the phone to me daily and there's not a damn thing I can find to do about it.
In order to solve the problem of the television, and thus keep her distracted, me and my dad got her a new remote. It's white and lights up green and only has six buttons - On/Off, Mute, Channel +, Channel -, Volume + and Volume -. It's literally the easiest one on the market but she's still having tremendous difficulty with it. On Sunday lunchtime we got a series of phone calls: she was having trouble with her oven, she said, and she'd thrown away some ready meals. It turned out that she thought the new remote worked her oven (no, I don't know either) and had got herself into a muddle. When we got there we found that she hadn't wasted two meals, she'd wasted five, all her provisions for the week. My dad tried to explain to her where she was going wrong while I repeatedly bashed my head against a cupboard door in the kitchen.
I refuse to do what my aunt does and just not answer the phone. I hate knowing that she's upset most of her waking hours and feels utterly alone. I'll answer the phone when she calls (whilst writing this I've directed her verbally back to BBC 1 when she got muddled) and I'll try and help. But I'm not always here. On Tuesday, for instance, I have a supervisor meeting; I may be down in Birmingham this weekend as well. She won't call my mobile because she can't 'deal with' the long number and I'm worried what's going to happen in my absence. I've got a headache that's lasting weeks at a time but, I have to keep telling myself, that's nothing compared to the way she must be feeling.