No use arguing with Alzheimer's

Procrastination may be the thief of time, but of all the thieves I've met, he's the one who somehow keeps getting invited back into the home to rip you off.

As a freelancer there's nothing more tempting than to keep putting off the evil hour of work, so when I hear the paper thud against the fence about 6am I know that really I ought to get up, rescue it from the undergrowth and start reading it from cover to cover before beginning the task at hand.

In the last few months of my father's life I managed to convince him to have breakfast in bed so he could read his beloved newspaper in the confines of his bedchamber.

When I would hand him the paper he would shake his head gloomily, paw eagerly outstretched and say: "More bad news, I suppose, more murders, sharemarket plunges, another deluge of terrible weather" he would rattle off in a litany of misery ending it with the cheery Dad's Army quote: "We're doomed".

After her breakfast my mother, marbles well and truly lost, would descend the staircase at one mile a peanut and looking into her husband of nearly 60 years room, would wave her stick in his general direction and say: "See that old bloke in there, he's a goner."

Thank God both of his hearing aids weren't in place, I thought, restraining appalled laughter and trying in vain to tell her that the "old geezer" she was referring to was her dear husband.

"What?" she cried.

"Not that old geezer, my husband is a tall handsome man with a fine head of hair."

It took me a long time to realise that it was completely pointless to try to correct someone with Alzheimer's.

It does neither you nor them any favours to be told repeatedly that they are quite wrong as it depresses them and frustrates and angers all parties.

Far better to agree and go with the flow and try to live inside their head, see it through their bewildered eyes as they go through a very long bad acid trip from which they will never emerge.

So in the space of an hour you can be a mother, a daughter, a long dead sister, a dark shape, but most often a complete stranger. My poor brother came home from Aussie and was not recognised. Dad had to tell mum that this was her son, to which she replied in disbelief: "What? That great big bruiser. I never gave birth to that?"

Literally, you didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and to my father his wife's loss of memory and mind was a bitter blow. For years we would try to pretend it wasn't happening with dad taking great comfort from her ability to do the crossword and come up quickly with the answers.

"Nothing wrong with your mind," he would say triumphantly living in false hope, as Fay, his pretty and witty wife, became more fey, slipping away from herself in a death by a thousand cuts.

The world my father lived in was one of words, it was a life of the mind and the erosion of his wife's mind as she said the same things over and over again, was an unbearable torment.

But he was old school, took the "in sickness and in health" bit to the letter of the marital pact battling on with this strange person living alongside him feeling more and more alone.

When I moved in she became my dummy, I was her ventriloquist, it wasn't all bad and we had some fun in a make-believe world as we reversed the roles, myself now terribly grateful to her for giving me the child I never bargained for.

I was sitting in a cafe the other day reading my newspaper, happy in my procrastination, when for the umpteenth time a bloke came up to me and asked me if I'd finished with the paper I'd only just started reading, and I told him, "Sorry, this is my paper."

Then I saw his wife, obviously an Alzheimer's sufferer. He had got out of the house to try to have some life. I felt deeply ashamed.

"You utter bitch," I muttered, telling myself off out loud in the first sign of madness as I dropped the paper on the table and left, too sorry to say a word.

The Press