The wrinkly young lady

By Anna Nogueira Nicolau

Incidents of Dorothy seeming to be stuck in the past were not rare. And when I say ‘past’ I don’t mean last week – I mean several years, decades ago. Come on, her seat in the living room seemed to be strategically placed to check out the men walking past the house, and the way she can laugh and feel pity for the way old people look silly struggling with shopping bags could not be coming from a lady who understood that she is also ‘that’ old.

I do have a boyfriend and I can’t just keep looking at young men in the streets, but if I’m supposed to take part in meaningful and fun activities with Dorothy as part of my job and she wants to look at men in the street then ‘oh no’  I guess I MUST join in…If she wants to start checking out young men walking home from work in front of us, looking all smart in their suits, to realise, after close inspection that one of them is wearing girly socks and has a bum that is actually too big for a man then I guess I just have to join in!

The problem with Dorothy’s behaviour when it comes to checking men out in the streets is not what she is doing. She’s not actually doing it that often, it is just a bit of fun. But it makes me wonder if this is Dorothy being playful as she would be in her 70s with or without dementia, or if this is a Dorothy with dementia thinking that she is much younger than she is, or maybe it is even a Dorothy with dementia who is losing a bit of inhibition which is symptomatic of dementia. It is hard for me to know, having only known her for a couple of months. But since this behaviour does no-one any harm and fills some mundane days with a bit of fun and giggles I don’t ponder on it too much.
But when Dorothy told me she was not going to get a bath after I had just ‘nailed’ the perfect technique for her to get a bath without any problems I felt like we had gone back to the start. I had spent days trying different techniques to get Dorothy to get a bath without me having to try to convince her that she should, that she needs to, without her feeling patronized or forced to. I had finally gotten her to enjoy and accept her morning baths and one day she just says: “no”. Instantly I began trying to convince her, to guilt trip her by saying I had already gone through all the trouble of running the bath. But then I stopped and simply asked:

Anna: Why not?

Dorothy: Well, because of my skin. Just looks at it.

Dorothy had a hold of her skin in her arm and was playing with it, looking at it with disgust. It was not new to me that if you pulled the skin of an old lady it did not instantly go back. She was a lady in her seventies, and a very skinny one: her skin was terribly wrinkly.

Dorothy: It seems like I have some sort of skin condition. It is so dry and wrinkly! And all out of nowhere. I really should see a doctor about it.

I suddenly realised that Dorothy being stuck in the past wasn’t always going to be funny, or nothing to worry about. It would get to a stage when she would actually look at her body, with the mind of a 30 year old woman and think:


How scary must that be??



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Many thanks.  Anna


7 thoughts on “The wrinkly young lady

  1. Hi Anna, Poor Dorothy I know how she feels regarding her skin not being so supple anymore but at least I understand why,perhaps if you say to her , well Jean has that problem but uses lots of lotion after having her bath/ shower each day !!!who knows it may be worth a try .As for watching and remarking on the young men passing by it seems ther is still some of the former Dorothy lurking about in her mind.Keep up the good work Anna it must be enlightening to many people who do not understand (Alzheimers).

    • Hi Jeane. She did use to put on moisturiser after her baths, but she ran out and just stopped and I didn’t think much of it, but I’ll buy some more and start again. I’m glad to know the joky, flirty Dorothy is still there =) Indeed there are too many people out there who just don’t understand Alzheimer’s, so I hope this blog id enlightening. Thank you very much for the comment!

  2. Adorei. Adorei esse txto, mas nao acho q esse seja um problema so da Dorothy. Eu passo pela mesma situacao. Muitas vezes me pego olhando, (so olhando ok:) p um homem que passa por mim e digo p mim mesma ‘nossa que gato’ .Depois caio na real de perceber que esse gato poderia ser meu filho e se eu poderia ter tido ele com 16 ou 17 anos. Por mais que eu saiba que estou encaminhando p meus 50 eu ainda me pego achando q estou nos meus 18, 20 anos. Acho q isso e normal e muitas amigas minhas certamente sentem o mesmo. Se nao fosse pelo espelho que denuncia a idade,no rosto, nas maos, eu provavelmente nao perceberia que estou envelhecendo pq afinal das contas minha pele nao tem a mesma elasticidade de uma menina de 20 anos mas tbem nao esta tao mal a ponto de denunciar ‘minha idade’. Infelizmente eu acho q isso e um fator natural e acho q o ser humano ainda nao aceita a velhice nem o que a acompanha…rugas demencia etc Com al;zheimer ou nao, aceitar a velhice e uma ato heroico e tanto. Nao e facil pois com a velhice vem as limitacoes e as insegurancas .

    • Eu entendo mas no seu caso voce se lembra da sua idade quando se olha no espelho. A Dorothy nem sempre se lembra e continua vivendo no passado e realidade dela. E essa è a diferenca entre a dementia e outras doencas afetando a memoria. Xx

    • It really must be horrible, but it is not too hard to understand what they go through if you can try to put yourself in their position. But then that’s hard too xx

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