Meeting the flimsy little lady

Dorothy was this sweet, flimsy little woman who compliantly (in a strangely also defiant way) followed the rushed and caring Polish carer who she seemed attached to by an invisible rope.

When  I arrived with my big suitcase to take the care job in Uxbridge  she greeted me indiscriminately, not knowing who I was, why I was there and not seeming perplexed as to why I started walking by her side and talking over her tiny head to the Polish carer on her other side.  I thought I ought to introduce myself and let her know I’ll be staying…How rude of me to have skipped such a necessary step for the beginning of a ‘normal, easy-going relationship’. But little did I know this would not be a normal relationship.

The announcement of my stay was met with an indignant look: “I wasn’t told about that!” she accusingly said to the rushed carer. While that startled me and enveloped me in an air of awkwardness her carer Izabela shrugged her shoulders, laughed and said: “Yes you were. I told you many times.” To that my nervous smile coincided with Dorothy’s yet again confused, indignant expression.

During the rest of the walk I attempted to better  introduce myself and explain to an already confused old lady my complicated relationship to Izabela (my dad’s girlfriend and soon to be mother to my youngest brother) and my background (born and raised in Brazil, having lived all my teenage years in Northern Ireland and moved to Plymouth for University – and I must add: all of that said in a very mixed accent). She politely pretended to follow and be interested in all that.

 For the rest of the day I watched the stubborn tiny woman be hurriedly and efficiently (yet with a lot of caring attention) guided to bath, to dress, to have her dinner and to go to sleep.

Being in a hurry to quickly train me for the job in half a day the bath was given quite quickly. Complaints such as:  “how little water!”, “I don’t remember the last time I had a bath for longer than 5 minutes” were certainly not measured or scarce.   Between complaints and bickering a complicated loving relationship seems to show through.

I looked forward to the day that I would be left to become her carer. I also feared it immensely. The very next day would be it and I would be left free to use all the useful tips I recorded in my notebook in my head. I would also be able to do things my way and possibly apply as much of my knowledge and skills recently gained as a Psychology graduate. What I didn’t know is that it would take several weeks of cohabitation and work  to tailor a care style that would cater for both of our needs.


While I though: “how much work can such a tiny, flimsy lady be?” reality soon struck that I was not prepared for what such a tiny, flimsy lady with the necessary neuro-degenerative condition can put me through in only five minutes!


12 thoughts on “Meeting the flimsy little lady

  1. Uma unica palavra: m a r a v i l h o s o! 🙂 qdo e que vc vai parar de me surpreender? Espero que nunca. Continue… quero mais noticias da Doroteia:)

  2. I admire your career choice Anna! My grandmother suffered from dementia with lewy bodies and found it to be a very frustrating, bizarre and upsetting illnesses to follow the course of. The brief sparks of the real personality trapped inside make any time and effort spent well worthwhile though. Good luck and try and wear a tough skin! I imagine you will bear the brunt of a wide range of emotions from her, often in a very short space of time.

    • Thanks Chris! Having studied Psychology and read up on dementia before taking the job I thought: “how hard can it be?”. But there is so much more to it. I know exactly what u mean. Dementia is very cruel and I imagine just as confusing to carers as it is for the sufferers which is why I thought of writing about my experience in a funny light because after all most of their symptoms do make u laugh and if u didn’t you would just cry…I’m lucky to not have experienced this in my own family and I’m sure whatever lucid moments your nan still had she was able to admire all that your family must have had to overcome looking after her. Do follow my blog every week or so. It would mean a lot. And help me advertise it if you like it =)

  3. Very interesting, Anna, and I love your drawing. I am a certified nursing assistant and care for elders in their homes. I’ve had many clients with dementia and my mother died over a year ago from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. The web site has a feature that I’ve found to be very helpful: you can sign up for emails with tips and ideas tailored to the specific stage of Alzheimer’s. Look for the link to Alzheimer’s Stage Group on the home page. It’s written for family caregivers but is helpful for paid carers, too.

    • Thank you very much Mary Ann. It’s only the beginning but I already have some interesting stories lined up. I wanted to give and get the most out of this experience. I never knew how fascinating and also catastrophic dementia could be and I have a lot of respect for both paid and unpaid carers in the area. I hope you will choose to follow my publications as it would also be very interesting and useful to get comments on my experiences. P.S. Thank you for the link – I am actually writing up a care plan and the more advice I can get the better.

    • Hi Mauricio. Thank you very much! You’re very sweet =) I’m planning on publishing something new every Friday so if you ‘folow’ the blog you should get notifications but I’ll be sharing it on Facebook and on your page too. Thank you for the comment – it means a lot. Anna

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