I switched my days with Auntie Hope from Mondays to Tuesdays because she's spending more time with her family on the weekends. I wondered if that would confuse her more, so I reminded her that I used to come on Mondays, and asked her how her family was doing. She replied, "Yes, I'm spending Mondays with them as well now. I have a mental condition, and it isn't something that one can hide away from. It's something one has to face and manage as best one can."
I think my mouth dropped open when she said that. If I had Alzheimer's, I think I would hide away... having been the acadmic-type, I imagine how destructive and demoralising it would be to slowly forget things. Auntie Hope, however, seems to face life with nerves of steel. And this from a woman who says she isn't qualified to do anything!
There are times, however, when Auntie Hope feels lonely and miserable, and that's when she finds comfort in her cat, who usually sidles up to her and purrs contentedly. In moments like those I feel like crying. Even if people visited daily, it wouldn't change the feelings of loneliness that comes from going to bed alone, the silence that comes from living alone, or the sense of abandonment from having no short-term memory of the people who do love and visit her.
When it was time to lock up her flat and walk down to lunch, Auntie Hope couldn't find her keys. I helped her look and finally found them outdoors. It made me realise how precious - and how precarious -our time together is.