There’s no place like Ali’s Home Comforts….
Ali Chrisp’s debut novel, Home Comforts, is a laugh-out-loud comedy about Jo, who suddenly finds herself out of a job, out of a home, and seemingly out of options. What’s a girl to do… Well, quite a lot, when she’s as tenacious and resourceful as this heroine!
Here, Ali tells us about a very important part of her life alongside her writing – and why we should always be ready to put our best foot forward.
SLIPPERS TO SHOES
For the last five and a half years, I have been fortunate enough to have an extremely rewarding job, working as a personal assistant to Ann, a lovely lady who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The first time I met her, I had a preconceived idea of what she was going to look like, and when a slim little figure dressed in jeans and a very trendy top walked down the stairs, I couldn’t believe it was her.
After three years of supporting Ann in her home and helping her to maintain a good quality of life, her health suddenly started to deteriorate and her safety could no longer be guaranteed; when the milkman found her wandering along the main road at 5.30am, her family had no choice but to find a suitable care home for her. Once she had settled into the specialist dementia unit, I resigned myself to no longer having a part to play in her care.
It was a surprise, therefore, when I was offered a new contract taking Ann for trips out twice a week, a job I was only too pleased to accept. So many families think that once their relative has moved into a care home, they cannot be taken out of there on a regular basis. I would like them to think again, as such outings have so many benefits.
The most important of these is getting out in the fresh air and having sunlight on their skin. A gentle walk on a warm, sunny day can do the power of good. We go for plenty of drives in the countryside, have picnics in the park, visit National Trust properties, explore Cotswold villages and frequent enough coffee shops and tea rooms to write a guide book! Only last week, we found a bench on the edge of a bluebell wood and ate our sandwiches admiring the view and listening to the birdsong.
Although Ann has difficulties with spatial awareness, balance, eating her meals and putting her thoughts into words, it hasn’t stopped us going out at all. I have to be adaptable, depending on her mood and energy levels, but we very rarely have to cancel our jaunts. She is usually in a cheerful mood and we have a lot of fun. She likes shopping, having the odd glass of wine, eating chocolate, commenting on good-looking men (even at the age of 80!), singing along to Abba or Classic FM and even having a quick dance to background music in the middle of shops. She gets to practice her conversational skills because the carers ask her where she’s going and where she’s been, and she often puts in extra effort to chat to strangers we meet when we’re out.
Occasionally, we go to the cinema if there’s an appropriate matinee, but this can sometimes be a bit problematic as Ann has started singing along to the incidental music. She also enjoys a bit of heckling, which can be amusing, but doesn’t always go down well with the rest of the audience
The care home where Ann lives is very good, with great continuity of friendly staff, and the provision of regular activities, singalongs, concerts and dancing. But before you resign your loved one to a lifetime in slippers, try and dust off their shoes now and then and take them out. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll both enjoy it!