My Dad’s a Goldfish – a little incident

I took the Goldfish for coffee and cake at the garden centre. He loves the banoffee pie they serve there.

We had a tour of the shopping area first, which he always enjoys as there is so much to look at. I ask several times if he needs to go to the loo before we went to the coffee shop but he says he doesn’t need to go. He tucks into the huge slice of banoffee pie with gusto but moments later he announces he would soon need to spend a penny.

“Do you need to go right now?”

“No, it’s all right, I can wait.” He sips his coffee. “I hope they have a loo here. I’ll need to spend a penny soon.”

“Shall we go now? We can leave our coffee until we come back.”

“No, I can wait.” He takes another sip of coffee. “I’ll need to spend a penny soon.”

I gather up my bag and take the brakes off the wheelchair. “I’ve not finished my coffee,” he protests. “or my cake.”

“I thought you wanted to spend a penny? We can go to the loo and come back to finish your coffee.”

“Oh, all right then.” I wrap the remains of his pie in a couple of napkins and put it in my handbag, knowing it was unlikely we would come back.

I push the wheelchair to the accessible toilet, open the door, get him out of the wheelchair, hand him his walking stick and he totters over to the loo. I retreat to give him some privacy and wait outside the door. And I wait some more. I’m close to the gardening books but the more interesting books are further away and I don’t want him not to see me as soon as he comes out.

I wait some more. People who pass me several times smile in sympathy when they see the wheelchair.

Eventually, I notice the door handle turning and jump to attention. The Goldfish emerges very slowly, looking rather upset. He vaguely indicates behind him before flinging himself into his chair.

I see the floor is awash with water – well, on closer inspection, I realise it’s urine, some of which has wet his shoes and the hems of his trousers. In a corner of the toilet I spot his abandoned walking stick – and his underpants. At least he had the sense to take them off, which explains the length of time he was in there.

I pick them up, roll them up and shove them in my handbag, thinking the banoffee pie is now beyond saving. I give the floor a bit of a wipe with paper towels and we leave, looking as dignified as we can. To be honest, the Goldfish has already forgotten whatever happened in the toilet and I am reaching the stage of no longer being embarrassed at things which happen when we are out.

Things will happen, even worse things might happen.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – lunch group outing

I took the Goldfish to our first lunch group. We won’t go again. It’s very much a group for carers (i.e. partners) as much as for the people with dementia. Each demented person had a spouse with him/her – except for the Goldfish who had me. This prompted a lot of questions: Was I his main carer? Why wasn’t his wife with him? Was she dead?

In front of the Goldfish I couldn’t explain his wife is not interested in doing anything with her husband and wants other people – anyone else – to take him out of her presence as much as possible. These are people who actually care about their partners and want to enjoy doing things together despite the confusions and difficulties. I was impressed when I heard about how two couples are arranging to go away on holiday together, each looking out for each other’s partner.

The Goldfish was not happy. He didn’t eat all his meal, which is unlike him. He answered questions about his job, and living on Islay but didn’t ask anyone else questions. I don’t know if he realised how odd it was that he was the only one not part of a couple or if it was being with a group of total strangers. At one time this would not have worried him in the slightest and he would have relished meeting new people.

When he needed to go to the loo, I took him to the door of the gents and he said he would find his way back. He didn’t. One of the others went off to search and found him wandering, very confused, at the other bar in the hotel – trying to pay for the lunch for everyone. He brought him back, minus his walking stick which was later tracked down in the loo.

The step-monster was very disappointed when I said we wouldn’t go again, seeing it as a lost opportunity to get rid of her husband for a couple of hours. However, when I mentioned the cost of the lunch, she quickly agreed it was probably better not to go again!

My Dad’s a Goldfish – they told us this would happen

They told us it would happen. We’ve read about it, were expecting it, knew it was the disease, not to take it personally, but – it still hurt.

I had gone up to give dad his breakfast and as he was munching on his cereal with banana I mentioned it was my birthday.

“Oh, many happy returns,” he said.

“Thank you. Do you remember the night I was born?” It is one of those stories I’ve heard many times. They lived, then, on Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland – famous for its whisky. My mother (not the step-monster) had passed her due date and was restless and becoming anxious. The nurse/midwife was called, examined her, told her nothing was going to happen for a while and left – for the pub. Some time later it was obvious things were happening and the call went out for the midwife to come back.She was eventually tracked down but by then the doctor had also been called. My mother was apparently in an extremely stressed out state. When they tried to give her an injection (I’m assuming Pethedine) her muscles had become so tense the needle wouldn’t go in. Clearly an unforgettable occasion.

The Goldfish laughed. “No, why would I remember that?” he asked.

“Well, you were there,”

“No! What would I be doing there?”

“Because you were there the night I was born.”

He laughed again. “Why would I be there?”

“Because you are my father and you were there the night I was born.  I’m your daughter.”

He shook his head and I realised, at least for then, I was not his daughter.

Who did he think I was? Some random woman who came to give him tasty meals?

My Dad is a Goldfish – a visit to the optician

I have to make an appointment for the Goldfish to have his annual eyesight check. I remember last year’s appointment, which made me realise how much he had declined over the previous 12 months. I’m not sure what will happen when I take him this time. This was how it went a year ago:

Eye chartThe Goldfish settled himself in the chair, looking round with interest. The optician asked: “Can you see any of the letters up there?”

“What?” I realised the Goldfish didn’t have his hearing aid in and suggested the optician spoke up a bit.
He repeated, a bit louder: “Can you see any of the letters up there?”
“Yes.”
“Can you read them?”
“Yes.”
“Can you read them out loud?”
“Well, I think so. Some of them are a bit small.”
“Try to read the ones you can.”
“What?”
“Can you read out loud the letters you can see up there? It doesn’t matter of you can’t read them all.”
The Goldfish read all the letters. The optician changed them to make them smaller.
“Now can you read them?”
“Not really, they are a bit small.”
“Try to read out loud the letters you can see.”

The Goldfish managed to read out most of the letters, had one or two wrong, realised he’d made a mistake and tried again. It was fairly clear he couldn’t read the smallest letters.
The optician examined his eyes with his shiny light thing and did all the usual tests. The Goldfish muttered a bit about the eye drops stinging but accepted it had to be done. We know the Goldfish has age-related macular degeneration about which nothing can be done but at least it hadn’t got much worse since last time, which is a relief.

Two years ago the optician said the Goldfish’s sight was deteriorating and he was surprised the Goldfish didn’t seem to notice. “Does he never complain about not being able to see well?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No, he doesn’t. But then, he doesn’t read any more and he’s not driving now so perhaps he doesn’t notice.”

The optician seemed to find it strange – but even stranger was to come. At the end of the test session he handed the Goldfish a card with printed text of varying sizes and asked him to read it out loud. This time, he read the printed card aloud with no problems, without his glasses, right down the smallest print – better than last time. It’s not possible.

The optician checked the prescription of the lenses in the glasses the Goldfish was wearing in case he had the wrong glasses. It was the correct prescription but he was able to read better without than with his glasses. I didn’t bother to mention to the optician I always take my glasses off to read.

No change in prescription was likely to be of any benefit so that was it for another year. Someone put new nose pads on his glasses for him. I don’t know what he does with them – he’s forever losing them. Now I better make his appointment for this year’s eye test.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – war of nutrition continued

After a sleepless night, I went up to make breakfast for the Goldfish, who was already sitting at the kitchen table. Step-monster said she wasn’t going to allow it – she was perfectly capable and she was going to make his breakfast.

I pointed out she’d agreed yesterday but she shrugged and said: “I’ve changed my mind.”
I wasn’t prepared to argue with her in front of the Goldfish who was beginning to look upset and went into the living room. I phoned DH whose advice was to repeat what we agreed and persuade her that this was how it has to be in order to make sure the Goldfish had enough to eat.

She came through to the living room leaving the Goldfish eating breakfast cereal and battle commenced. It was like talking to someone whose head is stuffed with cotton wool. My words just vanished, not understood, possibly not even heard. She accepted the Goldfish had lost a lot of weight but not the reason for it, still maintaining ‘he eats very well.’
We were getting nowhere. Finally, I said: “Social services have it on record the Goldfish is a vulnerable adult at risk. If you won’t accept Wee-sis and I preparing the meals it could mean going to court. Surely you don’t want that.”

“Oh, well,” she said, “you do as you think best. But, you know, your dad won’t live forever.”

“Yes, I do know that, but while he’s still with us he deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and be provided with good food in appropriate quantities.”

She said she does treat him with respect and dignity. Oh, yeah, making him pee in a bucket is so dignified.

And so a whole new phase of my life begins with the goal of fattening up the Goldfish. He does enjoy his food and usually has two Weetabix with a banana and whole milk plus a slice of toast with butter and honey for his breakfast. At lunchtime it’s homemade soup and a sandwich – Wee-sis made him macaroni cheese the other day, which he enjoyed – and in the evening it’s meat and two veg. He loves mince and tatties.

You can't beat a plate of Scottish mince and tatties

You can’t beat a plate of Scottish mince and tatties

At first, whatever we put in front of him, though, elicited the same conditioned response: “Oh, goodness, what a plateful. I can’t eat all that.”

“That’s okay. Eat however much you want. You don’t have to eat it all.” He then scrapes the plate clean. If I ask him if he’d like any more he says no, he’s had plenty. If I say, there’s a wee bit left in the pot, could you finish it up? He is happy to oblige, before devouring a pudding.

I am so angry but there is nowhere for the anger to go because the step-monster blanks everything she doesn’t want to hear. She is worried to death about what this feeding business is costing! I really think her obsession with thrift is becoming an illness but her family are not picking up on it and just seem to see this sweet old lady – and totally ignore the fact she was starving my father. I believe she is showing signs of dementia and her need to save money has become an illness. Everything she buys is the cheapest the supermarket has on offer. She haunts the reduced price section. She is terrified we’re going to present her with a bill for the food we are supplying. However, I have the money from the sale of dad’s car and we’re using that for now. If it is the beginnings of dementia, I should feel compassion for her – but I can’t.

I’m not sleeping well. I absolutely hate walking into the Goldfish’s house not knowing what the step-monster is going to be like. Sometimes, I find the Goldfish sitting in the living room on his own and she’s nowhere to be seen. She hides out in her ‘study’ either on her computer or watching television. Although we have offered to bring enough food for them both, she refuses point blank to eat with him at lunch time or in the evening, which he finds very confusing and upsetting.

I’m so tired though, with all the planning and cooking and sorting out the rota with Wee-sis. It’s a tough gig, this, but we are getting into a routine. One day I’m on breakfast, and either Wee-sis does lunch or I take the Goldfish out and she does the evening meal. Sometimes the DH does a turn, which gives us a break. Tomorrow I am on for breakfast then I’m going to take him out for lunch and I hope DH will do the evening meal. Next day, Wee-sis does breakfast, and I’m on lunch and evening meal. The day the Goldfish is at day centre we don’t have to prepare and take his lunch – gives us time to cook! We’re both batch cooking and freezing meals to try to save some time.

We are keeping a food diary for the dietician. The Goldfish seems stronger and better physically and definitely putting on weight. Although he is a bit more alert mentally as his brain is now getting some nourishment, he will never recover the level it was before the starvation. Will top him up with vitamins.