Warden controlled flat; South Devon, 2007: With dementia dreams merge with reality. A sufferer cannot tell the two apart. The often surreal, mythical and sometimes downright scary scenes played out in dreams no longer sit in a twilight parallel universe. They merge with the day-to-day events experienced during the waking hours. At least that’s what happened to my aged, now deceased Dad as he sunk further and further into the mire before having to go into a home for the terminally bewildered.
This tale is of his time aged 88 years in a warden controlled flat by the sea. I had decided a drive along the coast as he didn’t get out a lot and thought a bit of sea air would do him a power of good. I should add that prior to the dementia kicking in he was a man who rarely swore. Whatever, as I arrived to pick him up the conversation went thus;
“You alright Dad, you look a bit unsteady old chap?”
“What a fucking night I’ve had”.
“What’s up mate?”
“All fucking night, those fucking bastard Chelsea pensioners have been having a party in my front room. Fucking loads of them, loud music and prostitutes as well – the dirty bastards. I didn’t get a wink of sleep.”
“Sure you didn’t dream it Dad?”
“No I didn’t fucking dream it. I’ve spent the last few fucking hours cleaning up the mess. Beer cans everywhere; fag ends, and fucking used condoms. The dirty fucking bastards.”
I checked Dad’s bin – it was empty. His carpet was spotless.
“What sort of music?” I idly enquired.
“Fucking bagpipes. They had the fucking Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders band with them. Never stopped playing. You should have heard the noise.”
“Why didn’t you just tell them to piss off,” I said playing along with Dad in order to attempt to get to the bottom of the matter whilst wondering how he had so readily pin pointed the specific regiment.
“Tell them to piss off? Who do you think I am, fucking Hercules? There were loads and loads of them. I got a bit scared to tell you truth so I just stayed in bed.”
“Best we go out for a drive, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
On our drive out I tried to convince Dad that last night’s events were all a figment of his imagination, yet he was having none of it. Such was the power of Dad’s vivid nocturnal hallucinatory fiction that very soon it supplanted the authenticity of the waking hours. Like fledgling Cuckoos establishing a home of their own, his fantasies evicted or devoured what few brain cells that remained intact within the nest of his grey matter. Not only was my Dad on the Looney Toons team bus he’d now made it into the first team squad and was in the starting line up!
Then one day the old boy had a funny turn. He was in the Day Care unit in a local hospital when he collapsed. I guess he was in the ideal place really. He had had a history of these mini strokes caused by him having angina. The duty doctor was called for immediately and Dad was sent over to the main hospital what with the local one having no serious casualty facilities. He was only kept in for a couple of days before being released. However, in his short time there he drove the nursing staff to distraction. The problem was that he believed he was on a film set – with him playing the leading role!
“They will set up the camera again in a minute or two,” said Dad to Shirley (my wife) when she popped over to pay him a visit.
“What camera Jim?”
“The one for the film. Surely you must know that?”
“You’re in hospital Jim.”
“Am I? I don’t think so. They’ll be sending my script down in a minute. You can stay and watch if you like – as long as you keep quiet and out of the way.”
And so it went on. Shirley had a chat with one of the nurses who, exasperated said simply that no-one could get any sense out of the old boy. She said he even thought he was on film when eating his lunch. We thought it prudent to leave him thinking he was a born again Robert Mitchum (his favourite actor from the old days). He got a bit upset when we tried to tell him otherwise.
A young lady, something of an expert in such matters visited Dad in hospital and after running a few memory tests put a report into Dad’s GP confirming that Jim Steeden had walked the plank of lunacy and was now drowning in the sea of his own fantasies – although she was a tad more eloquent than that. After that he ended up in the care home where not long after he was to die in his sleep. Poor old sod.
As with the tale previously posted (see link below) I thought long and hard about going public with this one – the thing is I know he wouldn’t mind – in fact he’d have a laugh about the whole thing!