Monday, 28 February 2011

A Glimpse Into Alzheimer's Hell

On Saturday afternoon, as usual, Mum and I went up to visit Dad. The long stay NHS continuing care ward where Dad lives has three corridors coming off of the entrance area and at the end of each is a lounge. The patients can wander wherever they like although usually Dad is to be found in the Green lounge at the men's end.

However, on Saturday he wasn't there, so whilst Mum put away his clothes in his room, I went off to find him. I found him in one of the other corridors, trying to open one of the bedroom doors. During the day, the staff lock all the bedrooms, otherwise many of the patients would wander into the rooms and move possessions around.

For some considerable time, I have doubted whether my Dad really recognises me. He does recognise Mum however and, because I'm usually with her, I think he possibly recognises me as being someone he aught to know because I am with Mum. Whenever I wander off on my own to find him, I always wonder ...... will I get a glimmer of recognition even though Mum's not with me? In a way, it doesn't matter! After all, I recognise him! However, I do find myself hoping that he does.

As I approached him, in a cheery way I said 'Hello Dad. Are you OK?' You know, this 'cheerfullness' aught to earn me an Oscar .... but I digress!

He looked at me with an expression that I couldn't quite place. Was it bewilderment? Anxiety? Relief because he'd found a friendly face? I don't know. However, although Dad's ability to communicate is the one thing that is really failing, he quite clearly said 'Well, no in actual fact, I'm not'. Perhaps it was the expression on his face, I don't know, but all I could think to say was 'Let me give you a hug'. Dad hugged me so tightly it was as though his life depended on it. And I could have sobbed! Dad wasn't really a hugging kind of person when he was well ..... I'm thinking reserved Englishman here, from a time when men didn't show their feelings ...... so this was doubly poignant.

He then said something that I didn't quite catch. I think he said 'Thank you ..... I don't know who you are' ....... but I'm not entirely sure. My normal response to tricky situations is a flash of humour! It did occur to me to say 'Hope you don't go hugging just any strange women you meet that you don't know' ..... but I didn't. Not appropriate! I just said 'I'm Elaine, Dad. Your daughter. You'll be OK now'.

And I looked into his face and saw ..... fear? Yes, I think it was fear. He was now clutching my hands so tightly as though he thought I'd go and leave him.

'Come on Dad, let's go and find Mum. She's got some chocolates and fruit'.

He was holding on so tightly to both hands, but not in a threatening way, that we really weren't going to go anywhere. It really was like trying to comfort a distressed child. Eventually, I managed to just hold onto one hand and we walked back to his room.

Many times when Dad gets aggressive and lashes out, I have to confess to having felt angry with him in turn and to have felt that I don't like what he has become .... to actually not liking him! But on Saturday, I think I realised that when he gets angry and aggressive it is possibly because he is afraid and confused and, like a cornered animal, his response is to lash out. I have always wondered just how Dad sees the world; I guess I will never know. But the foggy world of Alzheimer's must be a frightening place and maybe I saw a glimpse of how Dad really feels and what a hell Alzheimer's can be.

In a way, I have written all of this so that, when Dad's behaviour when we visit is hard to understand, I hope I will remember how frightening and bewildering it must be for him and try to be understanding.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

We Didn't Order The Rain!

Although all week the forecast was bad for Saturday, by Friday the BBC forecast suggested otherwise.

However, it was definitely raining on Saturday morning! Mind you ..... it is February so it could have been worse! However, we didn't feel we could miss another weekend's walk as we really need to keep up the miles, so a little bit of rain wasn't going to put us off. In actual fact, the rain was very light and on and off, more like the kind of rain you get in April. It was also surprisingly mild, so not as bad a day for walking as it might sound!

One thing for sure, Spring is definitely on the way. Lots of beautiful yellow forsythia was everywhere and lots of blackbirds were gathering nest material.

I was still a little worried that I might have problems with my strained right thigh. So before we went out, I smothered my leg with Deep Heat! It certainly made my leg feel better although Deep Heat has a very pungent smell so I may have created a certain 'aura' around me :)

Our total distance was 19.7 miles. Total time out was 6hrs and 30mins. Total time moving was 6hrs and 8mins. Average moving speed was 3.2mph.

I ached big time by the time I got home, probably just because of missing last Saturday and not being all that well the week before that. We probably need to add in extra short walks during the week ...... but finding the time is the issue!!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Rug Progresses .....

Yesterday we didn't go on a training walk. I wasn't very well last week with a bad sore throat and, given that the weather yesterday was terrible, we thought going out in the pouring rain was not a good idea.

So ..... we stayed in and I did a lot of sewing instead! You can see I've made a lot of progress. I'm aiming to get the border completely done before continuing with the middle area. I'm almost 100% sure I won't run out of the pale mauve colour. The jury is still out on whether I'll run out of the pale beige but I don't think so. Surprisingly, I'm now not sure about the cream ....... but I may have a better idea once I've completed the border.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Aargh! Run Out of Wool for The Rug!

Well .... I guess it had to happen! Almost from the start of doing this rug, I have had the niggling thought ..... what would I do if I ran out of one (or more!) of the wools? It is such a big beastie that it had to be a possibility! Mind you, I didn't entertain the idea for too long as I am well known for being economical with my thread usage to the point of being miserly!

Still, on Thursday evening I needed to roll the rug up a little and for the first time, I could see the one of the lines on the bottom border. However, eye-balling the amount of green that still had to be done and the amount of wool I actually had left, I felt pretty sure there wasn't enough. Quick decision....... getting the green lines done in the border would be best done with the current colour so I rolled the rug right up and concentrated on just doing that. Normally, I don't like doing this as I prefer to always work downwards and not jump around too much as I think it can make the tension in the canvas uneven. However, in this case, I needed to make sure there was enough green for the border lines so I concentrated on getting those done. Any remaining leaves could be done in the pale purple and I could think of something or other for the diagonal bands.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite make it! In the photo above you can see the gap of about 12 stitches. Not forgetting, a few leaves and bits in the diagonal bands elsewhere in the design. What a nuisance!

At the same time, it occurred to me that I may not have enough of the darkest beige/brown so you can see that I have tackled doing the areas that have this colour as well. Luckily, there was enough of that. I actually wouldn't be at all surprised if the cream background colour also runs out but it's a bit difficult to judge at the moment.

So, I will carry on with what wools I have left but I now have to also search out some balls of rug making wool that are the nearest possible match to the colours I want. A tough call!!!

Once I know which colours I need, I will try phoning Glorafilia ....... not that they will have this kit as it is over 25 years old! However, a quick search on the Internet shows that they do still do this type of kit .... perhaps they might have similar colours?

However, John (helpfully?) suggested that even if any replacement wool is not quite an exact colour match, it wouldn't matter as, after a few muddy boots had been on it or if one of the cats had an accident ...... any colour mis-matches wouldn't notice! At such times, it is such a bonus to be the wearer of glasses ..... they enable me to look over the top of the lenses with a withering stare :)

Still ..... I did have to laugh at some of the more obsurd suggestions being made last night by John and our friend Don.

The silliest one relates to the picture that came with the kit which is below:

We decided that the book has been artfully positioned to cover up the bit that couldn't be completed :)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Rug Progress - Saturday 12th February

Here's the rug at the beginning of my sewing session on Saturday .... accompanied by Flossie :)

And here it is at the end.

The shots below show it in more detail, from left to right as it 'sits' in the frame.

After .............


After ..........

Before ...........

After ........... actually, didn't really do anything on the right hand side.

Whenever I sew, Flossie in particular is never far away! More often than not, she sits on the arm of the settee closely observing what I do! For Flossie, just about anything is an opportunity to play so she loves to watch the thread being pulled through the canvas! However, thankfully she's never tried to pounce on the threads!

I love spending Saturday evenings sewing! Not quite the high life ..... but hey ho! We always sit listening to music as well and we spent a portion of the evening listening to Gary Moore who died the Monday before (6th February) at the shockingly young age of 58. He was a tremendous guitar player, best known for playing with Thin Lizzy. I think he would have prefered to be known as a Blues guitar player but I personally prefer his rock guitar.

I didn't keep a note of how long I spent sewing but I'm quite pleased with my progress.

Perhaps Spring Is Coming?

I approached this walk with some trepidation, wondering whether my strained muscle from the previous week would stand up to it. Last Sunday, I looked up on the Internet how you aught to treat a strained muscle .... and apparently you use RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

So ..... I think I failed on all counts. Rest .... don't think the 4.5 walk last Saturday counted, although I've taken it easy the rest of the week. Ice .... oh dear, after the walk I soaked in a hot bath. Compression ..... can't imagine bandaging up my thigh! Elevation ..... apparently the elevation needs to be above the level of your heart and just the thought of the position this would entail is enough to induce a serious fit of the giggles :)

Anyhow, on our walk we met this seriously elegant black swan on the Lea. I've only seen them as part of ornamental collections and he did seem a little out of place on his own. He was trying to accompany a pair of swans but the male swan wasn't impressed!

Still, I think Spring is in the air. We started our walk at 8.15am and all you could hear was the sound of birds singing. Lots of these were blue tits, great tits and robins ..... but many were LBJs ........ Little Brown Jobs! The many little birds that you only see as silhouettes that could be almost anything!! And all the trees and bushes seemed to have a green halo around them ..... the beginnings of buds. Not forgetting this lovely sight; snowdrops.

I deliberately started our walk relatively slowly so as to warm my muscles up slowly. By the end of our walk, my leg did ache a bit but not too badly. We were out for a total of 6hrs and 9minutes and moving for 5hrs and 36 minutes. Our average moving speed was 3.2mph and we covered a distance of 17.7 miles.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Rug Progress - Thursday 10th February

Here's the rug at the start of a short sewing session on the evening of Thursday 10th February. The observant will notice that there's a chunk completed on the left hand side that wasn't in the last full picture I posted ...... in particular, the peach flower. I did that work on the Saturday before (5th February) but just didn't get round to taking photos. 

Here it is after about 3/4 hour sewing ...... a little bit on the right hand side.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

More Rug Progress

I've decided that, in trying to record progress on The Rug, I need to just take photos using flash with The Rug in situ on the sewing frame. So, here's The Rug at the start of a small sewing session on 1st February. In my house, wherever I am, the cats are never far away ...... so here's Minstrel as well, doing an alien impersonation!

Here it is at the end of the session on the 1st February. This was only for about 3/4 hour and, the observant will see I've done a bit below the middle peachy flower. Like I said ...... the cats have to keep me company, so here's Flossie this time! A half alien :)

Then, on Thursday 3rd February, here is a closeup of the right hand side of The Rug. On Thursdays, our friend Don always comes round and we sit and listen to music and I sew! However, because of the size of the frame, Thursday's sewing always involves me sewing only on the right hand side of The Rug. Otherwise, there would be no room on our settee for John and Don as the frame would get in the way!! As it is, I do get the odd comment about taking up a lot of room :)

Here's the progress after about 3/4 hour. You know, I've never really bothered to note how long I spend stitching and roughly what area I cover. It has now occurred to me (real Rocket Science this one!!) that I could probably work out how much sewing time I need to finish this beastie ...... but I don't think I will! It will put me off :)

Magical Walk In Ashridge Estate, Aldbury

As I said in my last post, on Saturday 5th February, we met up with some friends for a walk. Because they live in Bicester, Oxfordshire, we decided to meet up at a place halfway between us .... and the Ashridge Estate in Albury near Tring seemed the ideal place.

Both of these photos were taken from the ridge above the village .... a bit of a steep climb which my strained leg from the day before could have done without!!

However, what really made the walk magical was that at three different points, we got a very good view of the herd of fallow deer that are on this estate. When we got back home, their website said 'You may be lucky to see our elusive herd of fallow deer', so seeing them three times was amazing! Each time, they could only be glimpsed through the trees and I couldn't get a photo as we weren't close enough and it was too dark under the trees. However, seeing them was pure magic!

In the estate can be found the Bridgewater monument built in honour of Francis the third Duke of Bridgewater "Father of Inland Navigation". It seems appropriate to have visited here given how many times we've been walking along canals in our training walks.

Our walk today was really a gentle stroll by our standards :) ..... a distance of 4.5 miles. I took it reasonably gently as I didn't want to do any more damage to my right leg and, although it ached a little, I coped OK. After our walk, we had lunch in a pub in Aldbury called 'The Valiant Trooper' .... again the name seemed very appropriate, although the 'Trooper' they were referring to was a soldier type!! However, it is a lovely pub in a very picturesque village.

4th February - A Walk Too Far?

Last Friday, we decided to have a day off and try for a much longer walk. This was for two reasons. Firstly, we had a long standing arrangement to go for a walk with some friends on Saturday the 5th February and they are not into really long walks, so John had just planned a short walk of approximately 5 miles. Although we were looking forward to doing this, we are really keen to keep up the momentum of doing long walks to maintain our walking 'level' and Saturday is normally the only day we can do this. Also, we felt so good the Saturday before that we were curious as to how much further we could really go! All week we were keeping an eye on the weather forecast for Friday as a really long walk in wet weather wouldn't have been pleasant but it couldn't make up its mind! In the end, we just decided to go for it!

After doing a quick shop over at Tesco (I just knew I wouldn't want to go later in the evening!), we started out at 8.40am and headed off up the Lea Valley tow path. It was very quiet, especially being a week-day, and almost straight away we were rewarded by a close encounter with the Grey Heron in the photo above. Such an incredible bird.

And, of course, almost every walk has an encounter with swans. They always think we'll have food for them but unfortunately are disappointed every time! In many ways, it is easy to take the bird life in our country for granted as you see such birds so frequently. However, they look so proud when they arch their wings in a territory display and they are totally fearless in seeing off the Canada Geese.

Mind you, our walks are not all 'back to nature' as we are never far from the presence of man! Just before St Margaret's, the tow path goes under the A414 road. This bridge is incredibly noisy and I wouldn't want to live in the homes that are nearby, even though they look like really nice houses. I guess this photo is for any civil engineers out there :)

Also, just past Ware on the way to Hertford, the A10 road passes over on a truely massive flyover/bridge. When you are in the car, you whizz over this part without really paying too much attention, but on the ground you can appreciate just how massive it is. I have no idea when it was built or how long it took but the whole area is a flood plain for the Lea so I could imagine it was a massive undertaking even though it can merely look like a massive concrete monstrosity.

The turning point for our walk was a place we've walked to before - where the New River meets the Lea just before Hertford. It was incredibly windy! I also don't know why I'm smiling! My right leg had started to complain a little by this point!

Below is a quirky photo I thought to include :)

Along some of the Lea at various points, some clearance work had been carried out on vegetation along the banks. For some reason, some of the tree stumps have had this criss-cross pattern sawn into them. John suggested this is possibly to encourage them to rot but the pattern appealed as an abstract image. 

The walk back, especially the last 3 or 4 miles, I found incredibly tough! Not only was it really windy but my right leg started to seriously complain! I think I strained it and, after thinking about it, I think I may have set off today a little too strongly and didn't give my muscles time to warm up enough. I do hope this was 'all' it was! I did find myself thinking ....... if I can't do 24 miles, how on earth can I do 42? However, this is where I am thankful for doing this training with John. He has a far more sensible outlook! 'Just think ..... only a short while ago, we never thought we'd walk 14 miles and yet we did that easily the week before and some more! In no time, 18-20 will seem easy'. He is right of course :)

Back at home, I hobbled up the stairs quite a few times despite a long soak in the bath! Also, if I sat in a chair for too long, it would feel very stiff when I got up. Perhaps not quite a Walk Too Far ..... but one where warming up first needs to be seriously thought about!

Still, the total walk was 23.8 miles. Total time taken was 8 hours and 13 Minutes. Time moving was 7 hours and 22 minutes. Our average moving speed was 3.2 mph.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Frustrating Beginnings For A Campaign?

Is it a campaign? Hard to tell!

The day after the meeting on 13th January 2011 when we were told that they are consulting on services for Alzheimer's ..... but by the way, basically they want to close down four different units currently being run ..... I sent a long list of questions to the NHS Commissioning Manager that had run the meeting.

Basically, my line of reasoning is if we can prove that their rationale in coming to this decision is faulty, we might be able to do something to stop it happening. I have chased up this email several times now and on the 26th January I actually sent a few more questions.

I was promised by this chap's PA that I would receive answers by last Friday 28th January. Did I? What a surprise! No, I haven't!

Several other relatives have also been writing letters to the local Council as the local Council have just been consulting on a Dementia strategy for 2011 to 2016. Some of these relatives actually attended a meeting last week being run by the local Age Concern branch where this strategy was discussed. In the strategy, two of these units are detailed as though they are a fundamental part of their propsed strategy ..... but the officials present from the Council had no idea they were threatened with closure!

And today I read in The Times about the deplorable way in which mental health is managed in the UK.......
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