I've never thought of getting old in a way that I couldn't do the things I can now. I'm under no impression that getting on in life is a joyride. Things start to fail --- simple as that! But of all the misgivings of age, I think there is none more distressing than Alzhiemers/ Dementia. My mum suffers with this condition and what I'm about to tell you are my inner thoughts and agony as the daughter of a sufferer. So, with tears streaming down my face, here's my story. If you don't want to be depressed -- please click off this blog now!
Y'know we all have our moments -- brain fog, forgetfulness and " Why the **** did I do that?" I believe this to be normal! But what happens if it's much more than that.
My mum started with the disease 5 years ago when she was 76. I can recall the day, I found her wandering around in the yard looking for her brother -- my recently departed uncle! I thought his death had just hit her hard until I spoke to dad about it and he began to tell me things that began to worry me. "She's talking funny," he said "About her family and folk I dont know. She's put things away wrapped in newspaper and always wants to go out in the car."
Soon after this conversation, she fell down the stairs breaking her collarbone, wrist and ankle. In hospital she was quiet but we thought It was shock. But this was the start of a very slippery slope. Then she became ill with a pulmonary embolism, was in hospital for another long stretch, and when she finally came home, it simply wasn't my mum! I cried for many days, always with a huge lump in my throat.
My own health was failing and to add to all the bad luck -- I went in hospital for two desperate years of my life. Things began to calm -- the dust settled and I was back home. My mum had been attending a day centre but she was steadily worsening. She wouldn't speak very much and, when she did, it was to complain about the day centre -- "No one spoke very much!" We laughed because she didn't speak at all! The farm was going into total disrepair. My hubby and I wanted to help so much but it's difficult to pressure old people out of their home, even though moving would eventually become the best thing they ever did. In this country, you own your own home -- you get no help! My mum couldn't manage the stairs, my dad had COPD and angina, so the situation became impossible for them both.
They moved 3 years ago into accomodation suitable for the old. They have their own apartment with carers bobbing in and out during the day but still have their own privacy. The heating is free, rents are almost non-existant and the government provide them with the extra money they need. My dad's own words are " We've never had it so good"
Except for my mum that is. I've watched my mum slowly slip into a lonely existance. Gone is the sparkle in her blue eyes; her jolly red face grey, wrinkled and sunken; her little frame hunched, twisted and frail; her slient world looking not at me but through me! She's lost the ability to communicate, to dress herself, to go to the toilet herself, and now, to eat! I ask her "Who am I mum?" She gazes at me for a few seconds then looks away. Silently in my mind I say "I'm your daughter" but she never tells me so! A once proud parent, face smiling and outstretched arms for that cozy little hug and the gentle kiss upon my cheek. "My Barbara," she used to say! The nights we spent just giggling like schoolchildren and dad frowning on our stupidity -- those were the days! And the day I married, she sobbed throughout the ceremony, I guess this was her losing me!
To see this woman I love with all my heart become a complete stranger is worse than her demise. A nurse told me "She's okay, love, it's the ones around her that suffer." The most truthful word a health professional has ever said to me! Am I heartless waiting for her death? This woman is not the person she was: no dignity, no interest in the world; a lonely existance -- I wouldn't want to live like that! My memories are locked inside my head. I can hear her voice, the times we had, the woman I loved -- my mum!