The Continuing Adventures of a Dementia Carer

Welcome to this Blog. This blog aims to be an honest picture of what it is like to live with and care for someone who has dementia. I'm not writing this from any position of authority or claiming to be an expert on the subject, actually it's more of an outlet, a release mechanism which will hopefully strike a few chords with other people who are in a similar situation to myself. You are probably wondering about the title. This has become a catch phrase in our family as you will find out if you read on...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

In which I decide that something has to be done...

Following on from my first post, after Dad died and all the business of the funeral and clearing out of Mum and Dad's house was completed, we settled back down to a fairly normal routine of the four of us living together. At that time, Mum was a bit forgetful and needed to be reminded to take her tablets but nothing that caused any great concern for us. Life went on fairly normally for a couple of years. However, Mum didn't seem to be affected at all by Dad's death. I'm sure that she knew that he was gone but she just didn't seem to be upset or grieve for him at all. or at least not outwardly.
Then, after a while, we started to notice more worrying signs and changes in behaviour in Mum. She became less and less able to manage her medication herself, either forgetting to take her morning or afternoon pills altogether or even taking three or more days worth at a time. Each time she was challenged on the subject, she would deny that she had taken the tablets as if her memory was perfectly clear on the subject. Someone was taking her tablets, and it wasn't me, it wasn't my husband or my daughter and it certainly wasn't the cats!! Slowly we had to introduce security measures to ensure that she didn't take too many tablets. Now, all her tablets are locked away in a strong box in a high cupboard with only one day's worth of tablets out at a time so we know that she is on the correct dose.
Other things started going wrong too.
I came home one day to find her in the kitchen trying to make a bacon and egg quiche but had forgotten to put any eggs in.
I found her downstairs in the middle of the night looking for a crying child or complaining that she could hear a piercing sound.
She got very mixed up when dealing with money and couldn't tell the difference between pence and pounds.
These are just a few of incidents that made me realise that now I had to get some professional help but how do you explain to your mother that you are taking them to the doctors because you think they may have dementia or even Alzheimers!!!
Some deception was required I thought. Mum's hearing was getting bad too, despite the fact that she appeared to be hearing things that noone else could so I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to take her to see her GP and broach the subject of the memory problems. I called the doctors to make the appointment and carefully explained that I was worried about her memory but that she would refuse to attend the appointment if she knew the real reason. The doctor's surgery were great. They briefed the doctor on what my concerns were and when we attended the appointment, the GP was lovely and checked out her hearing and then chatted to her about her general health and how she was feeling and how her memory was. She then started asking her the standard memory questions about when Mum was born, where did she live etc. Mum had no idea what day it was, who the prime minister was, what the last book she read was or what she had read in the newspaper. At the end of the appointment, Mum had been referred to the memory clinic for tests and the doctor had taken blood for testing.
To me, it was a relief that someone else thought there was a problem too and I was reassured that something was going to be done.
That was over two years ago now.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

In which I explain the title...

You are probably wondering how I came up with title of this blog. No? well I'm going to tell you anyway.

"This was on the last time I was here" has become a familiar catchphrase in our family and always provokes a smile, a laugh or an exasperated "Oh Grandma" from my daughter. It's a phrase that has been with us for many years now and so seemed to be the perfect title for my blog.

Over the course of the last five or so years since Mum has been living with us, it's become very clear to us that she no longer has any appreciation of the passing of time and so really does not understand fully that she has been living with us for over half a decade. To her, she's just visiting, one of many visits and so, everytime a TV programme comes on that is familiar we always get "This was on the last time I was here" as she vaguely remembers having seen it before but associates it with a previous visit.

The phrase is usually followed by an exasperated "Grandma, you've been living here for over five years!" from said daughter or sometimes from me, usually with the response "Oh have I, it doesn't seem that long"

There are variations on a theme as well such as "Well it wasn't like this the last time I was here" which usually happens when we take her out and usually to some place she has never been to!!! (One day I will write about the infamous Cornwall holiday where this phrase was done to death and I nearly jumped into the sea and swam away!!!)

You know, sometimes, I am envious of Mum's apparent superpower of ignoring the passage of time. It might be nice sometimes just to ditch all the bad memories and regrets and grief and start afresh. Oh well, watch this space, this could be my daughter writing a blog like this in 30 years time. Be careful what you wish for!!!

My family and other introductions

Well, here goes with the first blog post...
Tomorrow is my 41st birthday, and I've been thinking about starting a personal blog for some time and so, as a start to my 42nd year I'm starting this blog to put down some of my experiences and feelings about caring for my Mum who was diagnosed about two years ago with vascular dementia. I'm not claiming to be an expert on the subject, far from it. I'm learning every day what it means to deal with the symptoms and the consequences of dealing with this terrible condition which is slowly taking my Mum away from me.
Mum has been living with us for just under six years now since my Dad died. I know that, for a couple of years prior to his death, Dad was becoming worried about the Mum's memory. She's always been a bit of a scatterbrain but things were getting worse and she was getting forgetful about taking her tablets and not knowing what day of the week it was. At the time her Doctor assured her that nothing was wrong and it was just "her age" but Dad was not convinced. He's always looked after everything to do with the house and finances and Mum didn't even have a bank account until she started drawing her old age pension and so had no clue about looking after herself.
And then, totally unexpectedly and far too early, he passed away in June 2005, leaving us all devastated by the sudden gaping hole in our lives.
At the time of his death, Mum and Dad were visiting us on one of their many babysitting visits, looking after my daughter who was seven at the time. My work involves a lot of travel and in 2005 my husband was working shifts and hence the need for a babysitting service every time I needed to go away overnight.
It was my husband who suggested she came to live with us. It was the only logical solution to both her needs and ours too. (Let's be honest, having a permanent babysitter certainly made things so much easier!!!)
And so that, as they say, was that and we settled down into a new phase of our lives.
I think I've prattled on enough for now and so, if you are interested keep reading...