As dementia progresses, Enomwoyi is delighted to see her mother retain her mental maths abilities. But ‘hidden talents’ like these can sometimes come with consequences, as she finds out when their blue badge application is rejected.
It’s easy to focus on Ma’s deficits and the challenges, but she does have some hidden talents.
Give her any two numbers for instance, and to this day she can add them up in her head. I enjoy testing her, not to catch her out, but to marvel because I know I won’t be able to. She’s brilliant and Alzheimer’s has had no impact on her mathematical skill.
'What’s 324 and 129?' I ask, and she replies within seconds.
I have no idea whether her answer is right or not, as I have not inherited her mental maths genius.
Applying for a blue badge
Sometimes though, these ‘hidden talents’ are not quite so appreciated.
'What day is it today?' The consultant asks her during an assessment for a blue badge. Ma hasn’t got a clue.
'Is it morning or afternoon?' he continues.
'Well I just look out the window and I can see if it’s morning or afternoon,' Ma replies, looking at him as if he’s short of a brain cell or two.
'So, what do you think?' he presses.
A slight hesitation, then she says firmly, 'Afternoon.'
'Yes! It is!' The consultant replies gleefully, but I suspect Ma’s correct answer is a fluke.
Testing Ma’s memory
'What’s this?' the consultant asks next, holding up a pen.
He’s coming close to being given a piece of her mind but she answers, 'A pen,' and adds for good measure, 'for writing', just in case he dare asks her the obvious.
Holding up other random objects on his desk resulted in the consultant looking quizzically at me as Ma correctly labelled each one.
'Who’s the Queen of England?'
Ma knows the answer but says the name won’t come to her and as soon as he says 'Elizabeth', she beams and exclaims, 'that’s it!'
The mobility assessment
Time for the physical part of the mobility test and Ma is asked to walk up the stairs.
Not only does she walk, but she literally bounds up the stairs and once at the top she spins round, beams and calls excitedly, 'shall I come down again?!'
No sign of the slow, stiff two feet per step that she uses at home. She’s back down in a split second and clearly delighted with herself to boot.
Outside, it was no better from my perspective, thinking of a successful blue badge application looking more and more unlikely.
Ma walks round the block, twice, declining the offer to hold on to the consultant’s arm for support. And she does so at a most sprightly pace with no stopping for the suggested breaks.
'Do you want to rest?' the consultant asks.
'No!' she exclaims leaving the consultant in her trail.
It’s no surprise when I receive the letter three days later. Our blue badge application is unsuccessful.
And I marvel at my dear Ma, whose dignity is still intact, wanting to present the best of herself and oblivious to the consequences of her ‘hidden talents.’
Still I try to remember that Ma still has her sense of dignity, and many other hidden skills and talents. I will cherish them for as long as it’s possible.
How to apply for a blue badge
Read our guide to blue badges for advice on who is eligible and how to apply for a person living with dementia.