Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: Not everything comes to those who wait…

17 Jun 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Geraldine Durrant recounts the long waits that often accompany test results, district nurse visits and diagnoses…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

More than six months after Patrick had had his memory test – and despite an initial promise that we would get the results in a couple of weeks – we had heard no more. An emailed enquiry for an update brought the reassurance that we would be contacted ‘shortly’ – but three months slipped by and we were still no wiser. A second email follow-up promised a diagnosis ‘within four weeks’, while a third suggested it might be a little longer – but I was no longer holding my breath.

No further tests had taken place since the original interview, so I reluctantly concluded that the memory clinic were simply months behind in their work – which seemed ridiculous.
But then my suspicions of ineptitude were confirmed in a report from Age Concern which found diagnoses were taking up to a year in some parts of the country.
But if a week in politics is a long time, a year in dementia is an eternity.
And while we waited for someone, somewhere to mark what was essentially a lengthy tick-box exercise assessing what Patrick could and couldn’t do, we were denied any treatment which might at least have slowed his decline. Patrick was demonstrably worse than he had been when the original test was given, and whatever benchmark had been set months before, I realised he would now fall sadly short of it.

And as the wait went interminably on I had to rely on my own observations, and Dr Google, to make sense of what was going on in his befuddled brain.

But meanwhile I had the funeral of a dear friend to attend. The church was beautiful, the weather was lovely and we laid him to rest with just the right mixture of fond laughter and sad regret.

My daughter-in-law Jenny offered to babysit Patrick, and so I had a day out on my own for the first time in a year.

But as I looked around our circle of friends, in our seventies and most of us coping with health issues, I began to to feel God was trying to pick us off quietly, one by one, in the hope that we wouldn’t notice…

One beautifully sunny morning I stood on our drive, sopping wet under my hastily-donned kaftan and with my sodden hair caught up in a towel, looking for the district nurse.
But no district nurse was to be found, and as I shivered in the frisky wind I was cross at myself for having been in the shower when she had knocked so unusually early.
Patrick at least had heard her, but it appeared I was too late to catch her. Not only was she due to change the dressing on the wound that Patrick’s catheter has worn in his scrotum, but I was hoping she would cast her professional eye over his latest petit probléme.
In changing Patrick over the weekend I expected the tube of his catheter to exit his penis centrally as usual, so – although I know nothing at all about football – I was disturbed to realise it was very definitely “offside”. And then I felt sick.
The catheter tube had torn through the head of his penis and was exiting up one side of the shaft.As luck would have it we had an appointment with the urology team in two days’ time, so our doctor issued a prescription for a soothing unguent and I had spent the previous 48 hours hoping that no further damage would occur before Patrick could be seen and assessed at the hospital.
So I trudged back inside, shivering with damp and cold, and told him we would just have to hope the nurse would call back later. “It’s okay,” Patrick replied cheerfully, “she’s still outside coming up the drive…” I joined him at the bedroom window – and realised belatedly that my hasty exit from the shower had been a fool’s errand.
“Look – she’s there, with a friend,” Patrick assured me earnestly, jabbing at the empty view. “I expect her husband has just dropped her off. She’s wearing a mask and a cloak, and some sort of strange costume. I wonder what that’s all about?
“You’d better go down again and let her in…”

A dear friend and fellow carer once advised me that screaming into a pillow sometimes helps.
So I gave it a go…

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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