‘Do you want a cup of tea? I can run down and make you one.’
‘I can’t expect you to wait on me hand and foot… oh, all right then. White, none, please! That’s very kind.’
‘Well we can’t have our nurses going dry, can we?’
Deidre hurries off down the stairs.
I turn back to her mum, Frances, who’s sitting patiently on the side of the bed.
‘What do you want to do first?’ she says.
Frances broke her wrist the other day. It’s back-slabbed now, waiting for the swelling to go down and a fracture clinic appointment in a couple of days. Till then she’s stymied, unable to dress, shower, wash up, feed herself. Not that those things were happening much lately, anyway. Frances’ dementia has been getting worse, her benign confusion sliding into a more profound and dangerous lack of self-awareness. Despite three carers a day, it was already looking like she’d have to move somewhere safer. Deidre has already told me she’s actively looking for a care home.
‘There you go!’ says Deidre, bustling back in the room and holding out a strong cup of tea in a mug with a kitten on the side. ‘Nice n’strong to keep you awake.’
She watches as I run through the examination.
‘You’re my best patient today,’ I tell Frances as I unclip my stethoscope. ‘Mind you, I’ve only just started, so…’
‘Cheeky!’ says Deidre. ‘Don’t listen to him, mum.’
‘Where’s my tea?’ says Frances.
‘There, on the side. No – your good side.’
‘Oh. Right you are.’
‘We used to have a kitten like this,’ I say to Deidre, taking a sip of tea and then holding up the mug. ‘Whenever it had that expression on its face, you knew it was planning something spectacular, like sprinting across the room, running up the curtains and swinging from the pelmet.’
‘Where d’you get him from, then? The circus?’
‘Nah. The RSPCA.’
‘I like cats. They’re all a bit crazy.’
‘Who are?’ says Frances.
‘Oh. I thought you meant me.’
And she raises up the arm with the cast, like it was the craziest thing of all.