Dementia: Flogging A Dead Horse

When our central heating boiler developed a fault a couple of weeks ago I had a number of conversations with the Heating Engineer.   Craig compared our heating system to: ‘flogging a dead horse’:  it’s nowhere near as efficient or cost effective as it could be with modern radiators to match our boiler.  There are parallels here with Maureen: there is little point in encouraging her to do anything when she is tired.

I now realise that she gets all the stimulation she needs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  When Chloe or Gail are here she is in full flow.  As I sat at the keyboard yesterday morning I could hear Chloe and Maureen catching up on their respective weekends.  Apart from the occasional bit of repetition Maureen was conversing eloquently.  It many ways it was a joy to overhear but part of me thought OMG she’s going to be worn out for the rest of the day.  Maureen rested her eyes as she put it for a couple of hours after lunch, worn out by her morning’s endeavours.

At various times of the day I try all sorts of things to lift Maureen’s mood or provide cognitive stimulation.  Cooking and music go hand in hand.  When the going is good my dance partner will appear and pull me away from a hot stove.  Later in the evening it is unusual if we aren’t singing along to someone or having fun with a crossword.  I have even eased her into using her new glasses, knowing they are still on trial.  All I need to do is: keep a watchful eye on Maureen’s energy levels, stay by her side or she might start ‘packing to go home’, or wander off on one of her walkabouts‘ .

It is easy for me to understand that Maureen tires easily and needs plenty of rest.  What she also does is frequently resort to the Hostess Mode to persuade professional staff and close family that all is well. This may mean that occasional visitors have no idea about how she really is, and often engage her well beyond her physical capacity.  It is difficult for them to understand how fragile she is, as they never see her sleeping for days, after she has kept herself going for their benefit.  One of my tasks is to try to help them understand that she needs periods of rest throughout the day, otherwise their visits lead to days of exhaustion that may well have a long term impact on her wellbeing.





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