Lunch with Mum and a dozen others with different forms and stages of dementia. A was a pianist and now plays on the table, the lady next to him says, “beautifully played” and he nods graciously. Mum has always loved her food and tucks in delightedly, simply needing a bit of prompting as to what to eat next. J falls asleep a lot at the table and needs help to get the spoon to her mouth. Much of her curry falls in her lap or is smeared across her chin. She smiles and nods when I help.
There’s a very sad couple at the next table. He has dementia and his wife’s way of coping is to nag and threaten to leave if he doesn’t behave. Or to contradict him when he says something nonsensical. G is at their table and has a form of dementia which makes him talk nonsense in a very sexual way. But first he refuses to eat his chicken as he doesn’t think it’s dead, “it looks in pain to me.” Then he begins a startling monologue about sex, including how to distract women from unimpressive technique, “I always found whistling helped.” The whole room is transfixed, caught between hilarity and awkwardness. Mum can’t hear too well, which is a mercy in this case.
We leave to sit in the garden and B, normally the kindest and gentlest of residents is hanging on to the food trolley and shouting. A carer tries to persuade him to let go and B threatens him with his fist. The nurse comes and gently leads him away, but not before he’ s spat at Mum’s feet in rage. ” That’s nice” she says and makes everyone laugh. It seems that B’s medication has been changed and he’s reacting. The carers are astonishingly patient, but weary.
Five minutes later, he’s back to normal and smiles to open the doors for us. It tugs at the heartstrings. Mum, who has no memory these days, seems to remember his spitting and threatens him with my stick, he looks mystified.
We sit happily in the garden, where Mum and I chat and she begins talking to me in her village patois, which I understand but don’t speak. We then go downstairs to listen to a singer who regales the crowded room with music and song. Pianist A closes his eyes and plays along, Mum taps her feet happily.