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Monday, May 1, 2017

Afternoons with Lorna

Wally is into his 90’s now, and as he puts it, some of his parts are in need of repair. He had surgery recently, and had to spend a couple weeks in the hospital. That left Lorna at home, without her mate. When Wally isn’t around, Lorna gets quite confused. She has about a twenty-minute window before she starts questioning where he has gone and when he will return. We made a reservation for her at the Perley Hospital Residence, right around the corner from her house. Lorna was not pleased with the idea and said she wouldn’t go. We called Wally at the hospital and after she argued with him for a few minutes she hung up the phone. “He told me to behave myself,” she reported, and reluctantly packed her bag.
On the move-in date, Lorna’s daughter sat down in the Residence office to record every pill, eye drop and medication that Lorna takes, including dosages and times to administer. I went with Lorna to the games room, to meet her new housemates. Most of the guests at the Residence had some sort of memory loss or confusion. Some of them were recovering from surgery and others were there to give temporary respite to their caregivers. The Residence consisted of one large circular hallway with rooms along the outside and kitchen, social room and offices in the middle. If a guest found themselves lost, they only needed to continue around the circle to find their room.
“Lorna,” she read aloud the sign on her bedroom door. “That’s me.”
The Residence was extremely accommodating. But Lorna was not comfortable there. Several times a day she asked where Wally was and when he would be coming. Every morning she woke and packed her bag, ready to go home. She fretted over baking she needed to do. When we told her he had to stay in hospital for two weeks she said that was ridiculous and demanded the telephone. Each day we got Wally on the phone for Lorna, and each day she told him, “You get your a** home right now!” She lasted three days there, and we had to bring her back home. Her other daughter came from Edmonton to stay with her until Wally was out of the hospital.
Now when Wally has to go to a doctor’s appointment, needs to go shopping or just feels the need to go for a drive, I sit with Lorna. First we check to make sure she has taken her pills. Then I ask if she has eaten. I have to look for clues or ask Wally, because Lorna cannot remember. She has her books, but she can’t concentrate on them. She does part of a crossword, then asks where Wally has gone. Her short term memory is gone, but her long term memories are vibrant. I distract her with questions about the past. She tells me about when her five children were in school, and she had to have lunch ready for them. She says she never watched television during the day, and she isn’t about to start now. I pull out my laptop and start working on a writing assignment. Lorna picks up a notepad and questions the notes she has written there.
“Whose phone number is this? And who is this cheque for?” I explain that the number is the home care service and the cheque is for the cleaning lady. I will repeat that information three more times over the afternoon.
Lorna is unsettled without Wally. I don’t know what she is like when he is home. He has removed the fuses from the stove so that she won’t be able to burn their dinner. He has put her baking ingredients in the basement, where she seldom goes. Lorna used to bake for every Sunday dinner. She baked cakes for our wedding. She doesn’t bake anymore.
Some things are hard wired. Lorna takes meat out of the freezer every day, to defrost for dinner. She makes tea, and wonders aloud if Wally is hungry. As long as he is there, she is not at a loss for what to do.
Lorna knows she is having issues with her memory. She needs to be reminded who the new baby belongs to each Sunday. Her fridge is covered with photos of her loved ones. Pieces of Lorna’s memory are slowly disappearing, but the deepest memories are the ones she holds in her heart.

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