For the last three years of my Mother's life Claire and I used to visit twice a week. Every Thursday and Saturday as regular as clockwork we used to drive over to Rugby - on the way just past the former Great Central railway station we almost always used to see a man walking his dog in the direction of Rugby and the van looking out for speeding motorists.
Cherry Trees where Mother lived was a Residential Home for the Elderly - Mother called in "The Place" or "The School" but never Cherry Trees. It was a small home and Claire and I felt it was very well run and we never had the slightest concern for Mother's welfare while she was there. For the first year or so the car park at Cherry Trees was quite often empty when we arrived but for the last 18 months there were almost always other cars parked there.
Mother lived in room 6 but although she could never remember the number she could always find her way there unaided. Her visual recall of the route was fine once she was at Cherry Trees but when she was out with us she was often very worried that she couldn't remember anything about where she lived. Another curious aspect of life with her! She was usually very pleased to see us but we sometimes had to quite firm with her about wearing enough clothes and an appropriate coat.
In the early days at Cherry Trees she seemed to use hair grips and a hair-net at night. We used to find the grips on the floor most visits and buying supplies from Sainbury's was a regular event. Then it all suddenly stopped, never restarted and was never mentioned by her again. This was one of the more curious events we experienced as her dementia gradually got worse.
I always did the driving to Cherry Trees and then on to the supermarket with Mother in the front seat and Claire in the back seat. Mother never had a shopping list but always agreed she needed one. The first of the days worries would always be about what she needed to buy. We must have visited Sainbury's about 300 times during Mother's three years at Cherry Trees. We almost always drove to the far side of the car park, turned right and then almost always turned left into a space. On reflection I almost always park this way - not just at Sainbury's but in any car park - strange!
Fruit was just inside the entrance. Bananas were the most regular fruit purchase by far. They needed to be not too green and not too hard – yes, she was very fussy. Claire sometimes left us at this point to do our shopping and I would do the rest of the circuit without support. Chocolate was next, then magazines for me (sometimes) and for Mother (rarely). Biscuits, fig rolls, were other regular purchase. When Claire turned up we would jointly check we had everything we needed and she would go off to pay and I would take Mother to the cafe. Every time it was the same routine - sit her down, "Do you want a coffee" - "Yes please dear" - then I would collect a carton of fruit juice for Claire, a diet coke for me and a coffee for Mother.
Towards the end we switched to hot chocolate instead of coffee since Sainbury's didn't seem able to make a hot coffee. We would sit down a a circular table for a good old worry session and a three question cycle repated N times. Every visit Mother complained about the size of her drink - it was too large.
Eventually our patience would wear out and Claire would take her to the toilet prior to the next part of the afternoon's excitement. We found it was less stressful for all concerned for our twice-weekly visits to follow a fairly set routine. Even before her illness she had disliked spontaneity and this character trait became more pronounced as the years went by.
The Rugby town-centre park with the circular flower beds was our most frequent walk. This was a very impressive facility and reflected well on all concerned. The avenue near the Sports Centre was less exciting but made a change and it was our second most frequent destination. The out-of-town garden centre was my personal favourite and over the last year moved into third place. We also sometimes visited Draycote Water, the cemetery gardens next to the football ground and Cock Robin Wood close by the Supermarket.