MOTHERS AND SONS
An article by Duncan (@duncanjones64)
Duncan tells of his mum's diagnosis
You can’t pinpoint the start of dementia, of course you can’t, but I do remember the first time I noticed something wasn’t right with Mum. I think Mum was the most interested person I’ve ever known, always enquiring about people, always engaged with the answer. And then, one Saturday afternoon, as the whole family sat chatting in our living room, I noticed Mum had simply checked out of the conversation. Her mind and her eyes had wandered and she seemed oblivious to what was going on. This just wasn’t my Mum.
There followed similar episodes and on talking to my father, it became clear that he’d been keeping his concerns from the rest of the family. Mum had seen her GP who had brushed off her symptoms as signs of the ageing process.
As Mum became more detached, it was clear something had to be done, particularly as Dad had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. My sister and I decided to force the issue. She shared a GP with my parents and made an appointment for herself. I went with her and when she was called into the consulting room, I went too. It wasn’t quite a “We don’t leave until you take this seriously” moment but it wasn’t far off. To his credit, the GP responded by referring Mum. She went for tests but, sadly, before those test results came through, Dad passed away. A few days later, my sister took Mum to hear the long-feared verdict – Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s hard to imagine a more crushing week.
Mum continued to live at home for 15 months, latterly with paid carers, but we then took the heart-breaking decision to move her to a care home. We’ve been extremely lucky. The care home does what it says – it cares – and Mum is content and comfortable.
So, a happy ending of sorts, but why was it so difficult to obtain a diagnosis? Until we can answer that question, we still have such a long way to go.
Please take a look at Duncan's blog: shesstillmymum.wordpress.com/
Paul tells of the impact caring for gran has had on his mum.
We didn’t buy tickets for the dementia roller coaster ride
Three years ago I left home after university and moved to Leeds. It seemed an ideal opportunity for my mum to suggest to Gran that she move in. Gran had been diagnosed with dementia a few years previously and had coped well on her own but was beginning to struggle. She needed lots of persuasion but eventually she moved in and mum jiggled the house around so Gran could move into a large downstairs room (previously the dining room), and an en-suite was built for her.
When I went home that first Christmas, although it was strange to see Gran installed in the “dining room”, her and mum seemed to be getting on pretty well. Mum continued to work part time and Gran pottered in the garden, did the ironing and most of the cooking and baked those fantastic cakes which I always looked forward to eating. By Easter that year I could sense some tension; mum looked tired and told me she wasn’t sleeping well, and that Gran “was worse than a child”. I was amazed – everything was fine when I was there and the two of them seemed to get on really well. I didn’t see any change at all in my gran – she was just Gran.
By Christmas it became apparent mum was struggling. Gran had deteriorated and couldn’t be left on her own. My sister had recently had her first baby and Gran got quite jealous when everyone cooed over the baby and ignored her – she does like to be the centre of attention. Mum was feeling torn between caring for her mother and helping her daughter with a young baby. If she wasn’t taking Gran to the doctor, she was babysitting or shopping for my sister. I could see it was becoming too much when I found mum crying in the garden when I went out for a cigarette. Mum told me she was feeling trapped and isolated. Her friends had stopped inviting her out and phone calls were difficult as Gran would begin shouting “who are you talking to?” as mum tried to chat. I could also see mum had lost weight – there was never very much of her to begin with!
I talked to A (my sister) to see what we could do and realised she was pretty cross at the situation. Mum has a brother and a sister and both live nearby, but they hardly ever visited and when they did, it was always only a fleeting visit. We talked to mum, who tried to reassure us. “Everything’s fine” she said, “I’m just a little tired”. So, we left it. To be honest we didn’t really know what to do for the best and when mum fobbed us off, we just left it alone.
A few months later I received a call from my sister to say that Mum was in hospital – she’d had an accident in the car and broken her collar bone. I drove down to see her – and to look after Gran and give my sister a break. That evening I rang my aunt and uncle and read them the riot act. They were horrified and said they’d no idea mum was struggling. We held a family meeting and for the first time I felt like the man of the house and took charge. We agreed my aunt and uncle needed to do more. My uncle took over Gran’s finances and my aunt said she’d pay for some daily care in the home so that someone could give mum some respite, and that she’d talk to the local social services to see how they could also help.
It may seem strange to say that a car accident was a good thing, but it’s true. It made us all appreciate how much mum had taken on, how isolated she’d become and how tired she was.
Things are much better now. Gran visits a local care home twice a week where she plays bingo, has lunch, has her hair done when needed and she’s joined the choir. A paid carer visits at the weekend to make sure Gran’s up and dressed and has taken her meds, so that mum gets a lie in. Best of all, my aunt and uncle take Gran for days out so that mum can spend time with her friends, or just having a bit of a rest.
Gran seems much happier now. Mum says it’s because she easily picks up on moods and now that mum’s happier and more cheerful, Gran is more relaxed. A and I have a better relationship with Gran too because we no longer feel guilty at not supporting mum and we have a much better understanding of how to communicate with Gran and we’ve learned a lot about dementia too. We’ve made sure all our friends understand a little about dementia – it could happen to someone they love in the future.
At Easter I visited mum and heard her and Gran singing some old songs together as they picked daffodils in the garden. They came into the kitchen, hand in hand. Both were smiling.