I was away for a week (my beach holiday), and for Don it was clearly a very long week.  I phoned him almost every day, and every conversation I had would begin and end with him asking when I would be back.  Naturally this made me feel bad, and I had to steel myself not to feel guilty about being away.  Also, friends and family kept emphasising to me that I should not feel guilty, that it is important for me to take a break and go away sometimes, and to just enjoy myself.  And I really did have a fantastic week at the beach.

On the other hand, I could have done more to make it a better week for Don.  I told the staff I would be away, and I also wrote out a sign and put it on the notice board in his room.  They told me that they got him up two or three times and took him to the dining room for his meal, but he only stayed for a short time before asking to be taken back to his room and go back to bed.  Well I don’t really blame him.  It really is very lonely in the nursing home.  There’s no companionship in the dining room, the only people you can sensibly talk to are the staff or people visiting.  The residents are either deaf or not able to hold a coherent conversation.  I remember my mum in the nursing home, and being there for meals was pretty dreadful, it was nothing short of funereal — and Mum was the most sociable, engaging person you would ever wish to meet.

What more could I have done?  Well, I could have contacted friends and asked them to visit Don, check which day they would be available so that there would be somebody there every day.  It need only be a brief visit – perhaps to read him the paper (his glaucoma is bad, but he loves to hear the letters to the editor), or talk about what is in the news, or tell him what is going on in their life.  Any of that would really give him a lift, and also give him something for his brain to think about instead of staring at the TV all day.  I didn’t even tell the local Minister I would be away – he would have been happy to visit.

I promised Don faithfully that I would phone him every day.  Something else I feel bad about, because the second day I was away, I didn’t think about him all day.  My own husband, and I didn’t even think about him once, and it was only when I was going to bed that I remembered I hadn’t phoned.  When I got home at the end of the week, he was saying how long I had been away, so I said rather defensively, I phoned you every day!  and he answered, No, not every day.  So when we think sometimes that the MS is making him a bit woolly-minded, trust me, he does keep track of the important things!