Dementia: There is a funny side!

By Marion Foreman and Wendy Mitchell. Published 2020-03-18
BOLD-Living
Wendy Mitchell has kindly allowed us to use an extract from her hugely powerful book.

Hands up anyone who hasn’t wondered if they have forgotten to take their tablets one morning  (I am so grateful for Dossett boxes!).

Ever gone upstairs and wondered what on earth you are up there for, or, even gone into another room and turned around and just come out, hoping that retracing your steps will provide some sort of answer? 

In her bestselling book ‘Somebody I used to know’ by the lovely Wendy Mitchell, she describes, wondering why her daughter Gemma’s cat is putting on weight.

Wendy has kindly allowed TheBoldAge to share this humorous extract from her hugely powerful book.

‘Billy pads into the kitchen, performing a tiny dance in front of my feet before he finds the patch of sunshine on the kitchen tiles.  He flops down on to it while I scratch the back of his ears and he purrs his approval.  I shake some biscuits into his bowl and he gets up and crunches on them noisily.  He’s only allowed a few, as Gemma had put him on a diet.  She’s not sure why he’s put on so much weight recently; even the vet commented on it. 

I make myself a cup of tea, and as the kettle boils, I feel Billy’s tail curling around my legs.  I glance at his empty bowl.

‘Oh Billy, have I forgotten to feed you?’

He looks up with big, sad eyes, his purr audible over the boiling kettle that switches itself off.  I shake a few biscuits into his bowl.

I know our routine after this, despite the fact that so many other things desert my memory every single day.  I sit and sip my tea, and he paces around looking for the piece of red string with slivers of gold, the one I used to decorate his Christmas gift.  It has become his favourite toy.  He disappears and I find him on the stairs, sitting beside it, saying, ‘Here it is,’ with those yellow-green eyes.  We go up to the loft room – more space to play there – and I tie a knot in the end for him to catch in his claws and our game continues until he loses interest.  Afterwards, I sit down in the chair.  Billy comes to sit beside me, and as we look out over the orchard, just to have him near makes me feel calm inside.  He jumps up on to my lap and I run my fingers through his soft fur.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this before, but I’ve learned so much from animals.  This change in my personality, this softening in one part of my brain, has meant that I’ve made time to sit and stop and watch, much like they do.  Animals lead a simple life – they live in the moment, and that’s what I have found I have in common with Billy, an appreciation of now.  Perhaps it’s because nothing can be more frightening than dementia.  I live every day with the unknown, which is possibly why I’m not afraid any more: of cats, of the dark, of the disease.

A few moments later we hear the front door open, and both of us go downstairs to greet Gemma home from work.  We meet her in the kitchen, flick on the kettle for a cup of tea and while Billy sits on my lap, Gemma and I catch up on the day.  Twenty minutes must pass like that and then Billy jumps down from my lap and sniffs at his empty bowl, then sits staring at it.

‘Ooh,’ I say.  ‘I must have forgotten.’

Gemma looks at him, unsure.  ‘The vet said Billy has to lose weight, but he must be getting fed by someone else, because his diet isn’t working.  You are only giving him a few biscuits when you’re on Billy duty, aren’t you, Mum?’

‘Oh yes, I’m sure I do,’ as I shake more biscuits into his bowl and Billy purrs happily.’

Thank you, Wendy, I laughed as I read this and found myself trying to tell Wendy that she had already fed Billy!  It's not funny if Billy gets ill from being overweight – but it is funny that he is exploiting Wendy’s forgetfulness.  It reminded me of my Mother who had diligently fed the tropical fish – several times a day – with breadcrumbs!  I won’t tell you what happened, but I think you can guess. 

I do a lot of work in care homes and we have some amazing times – laughing along with the residents.  The ‘odd’ word, the funny phrase – we share the joke.

Reading Wendy’s lovely account of the cat helps us see the funny side.  She shows us that she can laugh at herself and that laughing alongside each other, whatever our circumstance, is wonderfully positive and uplifting.  Go on give yourself a little chuckle.

  • Wendy Mitchell's blog can be found here
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