Introducing Eleanor and Me


It is Saturday morning. The work week is over, and today's the day I visit my mum. Every weekend. And every time I arrive, my mother is surprised and delighted to see me. She is as excited as a small child—wobbly and a little teary. Every week we have a special reunion.

She’s spotted my car from her armchair in the dayroom and races along the hall. By the time I arrive, she’s waiting in the foyer.

Darling, how lovely that you've come! What day is it?

It's Saturday.

You should be with your family!

You are my family, Mum.

Tell me dear, what day is it?

My mother is in her mid-80s. Depending on who I'm talking to, she is Mum, Nanny or E. Mum has been living in a rest home for four and a half years. She has dementia, probably of the Alzheimer's type.

Mum has a diary. When she first moved to the rest home, she referred to it constantly. It was crammed with appointments, clippings and lists. Scrawled across the pages were questions for herself. “Que faire?” ["What to do?"] she'd write in her schoolgirl French. Or, “Must talk to the doctor!” Or the heartbreaking, “I can't go on.”

When I found the unfamiliar NFV acronym scrawled across the pages, I asked her what it meant. “No Family Visit,” she said. I couldn't think of a single thing to say.

Now her diary is mostly blank. Others write in appointments, but she can't remember to check it.

So, today is the day I visit my mum. What to do? Most of the time Mum lives completely in the moment with a bit of time-travelling on the side. But we could do anything, really. The world’s our oyster.

Sarah Jane is a freelance writer/researcher and part-time caregiver for her mother Eleanor* who has dementia and lives at a rest home nearby. Sarah and her mother spend Saturdays enjoying each other’s company, pottering about and having the occasional adventure. Sarah lives in New Zealand where she writes and speaks about dementia-related issues.

Visit Saturdays with Mum

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