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?”
“Can you read them?”
“Can you read them out loud?”
“Well, I think so. Some of them are a bit small.”
“Try to read the ones you can.”
“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 is a Goldfish: Various Conversations

The Goldfish is losing the social veneer which prevents us from making rude remarks to and/or about other people. He passes remarks – rather loudly – in public places.

In the supermarket he suddenly said in carrying tones: “Goodness, she’s a big woman.” In case I, or any of the dozen shoppers round about us, were in any doubt as to which big woman he was referring, he helpfully pointed to her. I – and she, thank goodness – pretended not to notice.

Every time he sees Wee-sis he comments on how much weight she is putting on. He accompanies his comments about her getting fat with a few friendly prods in her stomach. Finally, she said: “Yes, I know I’m putting on weight. You tell me every time you see me.”

The Goldfish was very contrite, said he hadn’t realised he commented on her weight so often. Five minutes later, a prod on her tummy and: “You’re putting it on a bit.”

I wish the same could be said for him but the weight loss is continuing at an alarming rate. The step-monster admitted she had to make new holes in his belt to tighten it. But she still maintains he is eating well. I know he eats very well when I take him out. Last time he had cheese and ham toasties, ginger beer, a huge slice of carrot cake and coffee – with an ice cream before we went home. I do wonder what she is giving him to eat at home. She’s always on about how older people don’t need so much to eat and whenever she is eating out with us she makes a big thing of having only a starter because it will be enough, or she has a main course and puts half of it in her napkin to take home. I suspect she has put the Goldfish on short rations.

I remember that occasion particularly well because I took the Goldfish home earlier than normal and the step-monster was there. Usually, she makes a point of going out before I bring the Goldfish home, so she can avoid him for a bit longer. It always puts me in a quandary because I hate to leave him on his own as I worry he might fall, especially when his arthritic hip is sore.

She wasn’t pleased to see us. “Oh, you’re back. Do you have to go somewhere? she asked. I pointed out I do have to work and this week have had three days interrupted with social services, medical appointments, and various other things to do on behalf of the Goldfish and was now running late to write articles whose deadlines were looming.

“Oh,” she said, with a little shrug. “’You’ll soon catch up.” Yeah, of course, I will – if I work to midnight every night.

One of those appointments was with the doctor about the Goldfish’s dramatic weight loss. He asked about other symptoms and said it is either a sign of the Goldfish having a tumour or it’s a nutritional problem. As there are no other indications of it being a tumour, he will make an appointment with the dietician. I laughed, pointing out how long the waiting list is. I’ve known people wait for two years to see the dietician. The Goldfish might not last that long.

When we came back step-monster asks if ‘doctor was pleased.’ I say no, he wasn’t pleased and try to explain the situation to her. She tells me, yet again he eats ‘very well’ and I tell her in that case it is likely to be a cancerous tumour. “Oh, well,” she says, “I’m sure it will all work out fine.”

What sodding planet does that woman live on?

My Dad’s a Goldfish – shopping for new trouserss

I take the Goldfish shopping for new trousers as his fall down all the time because he is losing so much weight. I park, unload the wheelchair and transfer the Goldfish from car to chair. En route to the shopping centre he announces he needs to move his bowels.

The first public loo we come to is one of those weird metal can things. I’ve never used one, convinced the door will open while I’m on the loo or, when I’m finished I won’t be able to open the door. I’ve no idea how the Goldfish could use it. I push faster to get to the shopping centre loos.

Wheelchair sign

A sign I look for as never before

The toilet for disabled people is locked so I have to push him on to the gents. At the door, the Goldfish gets out of the chair and totters off inside. I move the chair out of the way and wait for him – and wait, and wait and wait. Men who have gone in long after the Goldfish have come out again.

A cleaning lady heads for the ladies’ loos and I ask her if she is going into the gents but she says she can’t. She asks what the problem is. I explain about the Goldfish having dementia and I’m worried he can’t find his way out again – that’s if he hasn’t had a stroke and is lying on the floor inside. “Oh, dear” she says. “I’m sorry to hear he has dementia. Is he in the early stages?”

“Well, he’s gone past the early stage but it’s not really severe yet,” I say, wondering what level of dementia he has to be at before she’ll agree to help. She offers to find a male security person and disappears.

She returns, shaking her head. “Typical, isn’t it? When you don’t need one they’re buzzing about but as soon as you do need one, they’ve all disappeared. Has he not come out yet?” I shake my head in sympathetic understanding. She trots off again.

I hear the door of the gents open and the Goldfish’s voice calling “Is anybody there?”

He’s struggling to hold up his trouser with one hand, open the door and manage his walking stick with the other and in danger of falling flat on his face. I push the chair as close to the door as I can and grab hold of him. He’s worried about his trousers. I’m worried about him falling but somehow manage to get the trousers pulled up and get him to sit in the chair.

By this time one man is trying to get out of the gents, while two others are waiting to go in and as I bend down to help the Goldfish put his feet on the footrests, the contents of my handbag shoot out all over the floor. The man trying to get out retreats inside and shuts the door: of the two trying to get in, one tries to help me, the other looks at the ceiling and pretends none of this is happening and he’s not really desperate to get to the loo.

As I scrabble about on the floor scooping up keys, pens, purse, notebook, mints, tissues, lipstick the Goldfish looks on then asks, “What is all that on the floor?” When I explain he shakes his head. “Why don’t you keep your bag zipped up?”

With no room to turn the chair I squeeze round to the handle side reverse past the now several-man-deep queue. The cleaning lady re-appears with a security man in tow and looks disappointed to find I have the Goldfish back safely in his chair.

I thank her profusely and set off towards the lift to M & S. The Goldfish says, “I need to move my bowels.” I tell him he has just been, whizz round the menswear department gathering up trousers and jackets and head for the fitting room. I have him half out of his trousers when he says, with a greater degree of urgency, he needs to move his bowels. I zip him back into his trousers, re-settle him in the chair, tell a salesperson we’ll be back and rush to take the lift down to the toilets.

I usher the Goldfish into the accessible loo and step outside. He hasn’t locked the door so I stand guard. I wait. I wait and I wait and I wait.

It’s a busy place with the ladies loo next door and the gents opposite. I’m not concerned after the first five minutes go past. It can take him a while. Ten minutes later and I start to check my watch more frequently. Several people approach the accessible loo – some looking pretty non-disabled to me but then you can’t tell and I shouldn’t be judgmental but I suspect because it is a nicer loo than the ladies which has only two cubicles so there is often a queue and it gets a bit smelly. I indicate the accessible loo is occupied and they look disapproving as they go to join the queue in the ladies.

I tap on the door and ask the Goldfish if everything is all right. “Yes, but it’s not coming out yet.”

“Do you need any help?” I ask, mentally sending up a prayer, please god say no. Prayer answered I go back to waiting. DH phones to say he has finished his work and is coming to meet me. Good, I need some support here.

A security man goes past. Nods at me. Opens the door of the gents, glances in, retreats and disappears back into the shop. Five minutes later he reappears and once again opens the door of the gents, pops his head inside and comes back out. I wonder if he is looking for someone in particular. Maybe, I ponder, shoplifters go in there to conceal their stolen goods or sell them on. Security guard gives me an odd look as he goes past. I check my watch – it’s been almost twenty minutes. Wish I’d brought my Kindle.

Security man comes back and this time, after opening the door of the gents, asks if I’m waiting for someone. Does he think I hang around outside public loos for fun? I look at his face and realise he is indeed thinking that, and worse, which explains the odd look he gave me. I hastily explain the Goldfish is in the loo, resisting the urge to fling open the door to prove it – and that he seems to be having some trouble evacuating his bowels. The security chap looks like he’s just received more information than he needed but visibly relaxes at the explanation of why I’m hanging around outside the loos. He becomes quite chatty.

DH arrives and is not happy when I tell him he must go into the loo and help the Goldfish wipe his bottom but he does as he’s told and emerges with an exhausted Goldfish. All that time, all his hard straining resulted in a paltry couple of little blobs about the size of rabbit poo. We decide he needs laxatives.

Back upstairs in the changing rooms we help the Goldfish try on trousers. It takes ages but we finally find two pairs of trousers which fit him. They are two sizes smaller than the ones he is wearing. We head for home, all of us exhausted. The Goldfish has forgotten everything by the time we reach home – the shopping trip, the toilet visits (sometimes his memory loss is a blessing) and his new clothes.

I make an appointment with the doctor to discuss the possible causes of the Goldfish’s weight loss.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – Personal Care


The new shower looks good, there’s a shower chair as well so the Goldfish doesn’t have to stand up and it will be easy to keep the shower area clean. The Goldfish says he likes it but can’t remember if he has actually used it. Step-monster says he has.

I call social services and the CC comes to assess the Goldfish’s care needs and how they might be met. I said I thought he needed someone coming in for personal care – washing, dressing and shaving in the mornings. The step-monster lied through her teeth, telling the woman everything was just fine and they could manage perfectly without any help. At one point I cut in and pointed out this whole process was started when she was crying she couldn’t cope and wanted to send dad to the residential home for a shower. She just smiled and said she thought they were managing very well.

I walked the CC to her car, apologizing for the step-monster’s refusal to accept help. She said not to worry, she’s seen it all before, step-monster (she didn’t call her that, of course) is in denial and will come round.

The sun shone for our outing this week so I packed a picnic and went for a run on country roads and through part of the Galloway Forest to a lovely riverside picnic place. The Goldfish remembered driving those roads when he was working and commented, as usual, on the trees: not the Sitka Spruce in the forest, which he dislikes as much as I do, but on the broad-leaved trees by the roadsides. He always liked trees and it is lovely that he can still identify them, hasn’t forgotten any of their names and takes real pleasure in seeing them.


When we started to drive home he lost his bearings and didn’t recognise the road. “Are you sure you know the way?”

“Yes, dad, I know the way. We’ll reach the main road soon.”

“Oh, well, that’s all right then. I’m glad you know where you are going.” He looks anxiously out of the window. “Are you sure you know the way?”

“Yes, dad….”

The moment we came to a junction for the main road he knew where we were and relaxed.

I know it was a hot day, which may account for it, but there was a distinctly whiffy aroma in my car, which lingered even after I took him home. Mentioned it to Wee-sis who said she was mortified when she took the Goldfish for a chest x ray recently. “When he took his shirt off, the smell was terrible. He hadn’t had a shower that morning and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d not had a proper wash for days. I don’t believe he is using the shower at all.”

The Goldfish would be mortified if understood his lack of hygiene. Finally I plucked up the courage to speak to the step-monster about the Goldfish’s personal hygiene. She said he has a good wash every day. I said: “He smells.”

“Do you mean, do you mean… Do you mean his pants?”

“No, I mean body odour, an unwashed, unpleasant dirty body smell.”

“Well, he has a good wash at the sink every day.”

“Why doesn’t he have a shower? What’s the problem with the shower?”

“He doesn’t want to use it.”

“You mean he can’t use it. It really is way past time to have someone in to help with showers.”

“I don’t want a lot of strangers coming in to the house.”

“But if you can’t manage to help dad have a shower we need to get someone in.”

“Would it be male carers?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to discuss with the CC and see what she can do.”

“It’s just – well, you know your dad likes the ladies – it would be awful if he did something or said something inappropriate.”

Yes, the Goldfish always did like women around him and had a habit of putting his arm round a female waist but I’m fairly certain he’s extremely unlikely to do so with a carer – besides which, a carer would know how to deal with such a situation. He’s 87. I phone the CC to make an appointment.

In the meantime the mental health person came to do an assessment. When I arrived at the house to meet him the Goldfish looked really scruffy, unwashed and unshaven. When I mentioned it, the step-monster shrugged and said: “Well, he’s got all day.” Surely if he has a wash and shave in the morning it would help him feel a bit brighter?

As expected it was very clear his memory loss has worsened. Step-monster wittered on and on about him ‘doing fine’, despite what she was hearing. He managed to get the day of the week, the date, and the month and the season wrong and clearly had not the faintest idea who the Prime Minister is. How can she convince herself everything is fine? And that she is managing?

When the CC came to discuss dad’s personal care the step-monster started to insist they were ‘managing fine’. This time I wasn’t going to let her get away with it and told the CC that the Goldfish was often smelly, unwashed and unshaven – and the new shower was never used.

“Well, he can have a good wash at the sink,” said step-monster.

“He could if he knew what to do,” I replied, “but he no longer understands what he has to do to wash. He needs someone to help him and if you can’t do it then we need to have someone coming in.”

She finally agreed to have support workers come in but only three mornings a week – and not before 10am because she likes to have some time to herself in the mornings. At least for three days a week the Goldfish will smell a bit sweeter. A small victory!