I have reblogged a post entitled The Heartbreak of Dementia today and although I know my Mum won’t be reading this, I hope she knows somewhere in her mind that I think of her every day.
Sadly, I also know she won’t be thinking of me, or at least the Me I am today.
Growing up, it was normal for Mum to call me by my sister’s name and in later years our husbands to be called by the wrong name too. I looked at it as she was seeing one of us and thinking of the other. As I said, this was normal.
She has lived with my sister for almost 20 years, an arrangement that seemed to suit them both after my Dad died and especially when my sister lost her husband suddenly five years ago.
When we lived locally, we visited every weekend, met up during the week for lunch, and Mum would come and stay for a few days once every couple of months.
We moved away in 2007, and obviously things have not been the same since.
For a start, we lived over 250 miles away, though that was considered by my sister to be ‘our fault’ and ‘our choice’ rather than circumstances.
Saying that though, I wrote every week, as did Mum, and we phoned often.
Phone calls to us though were only when someone had died or to confirm travel arrangements in 2008 and thereafter when Mum would be catching a coach to come and stay for a holiday of between 2 and 8 weeks twice a year. During those times, my sister never contacted her once, not even for her birthday when she was staying with us one year.
We realised Mum was ‘losing the plot’ some years ago, but just accepted it as part of the aging process. We got used to the repeated questions or statements, a little bit of confusion arising from being in a strange house, and enjoyed giving her little pleasures such as the occasional outing, bingo, or even just walking the dog.
Her last visit was in the Spring of 2011, having missed her holidays the previous year as she felt my sister needed her more. Mum was like that, always putting family first, though in my case it didn’t matter as I was independent. The journey took more out of her than she was letting on, and my sister had said that she was ‘getting frail’, so we made sure she had plenty of resting time and didn’t overtire her.
In the autumn, she had an operation on her hand, and then the following year she didn’t feel up to the journey.
We took her 90th birthday gift down personally and she seemed to like it, but grew tired very quickly and withdrew into herself by sitting in her chair by the window.
There were to be no more holidays ‘under her own steam’ and it was pointless even to consider going down to collect her due to the length of the journey both ways for us in one day.
Visiting on a regular basis was unlikely due to our own problems, so I continued to write, though little was received in return.
I got upset about it.
When I rang, she didn’t know who I was, and that was the most hurtful of all.
My sister didn’t mention Dementia until a few months ago, though Hubby and I had suspected it, as had Bro.
Words were exchanged last May about us making excuses not to accommodate Mum even though we were in the middle of the nightmare of selling our house, and as things turned out, we had to move out the day she was originally due to arrive.
We stayed with a friend for a few days, and the first thing I did was visit my Mum.
We had a lovely day, had our hair done and I took her to lunch at the local carvery.
I noticed she was more forgetful, more repetitive and got more flustered and confused, so we talked about loads of different things and past times, making her laugh and smile at forgotten memories.
Finding a new home was not easy, and ending up on a boat definitely not on the cards.
For obvious reasons, we cannot accommodate Mum at all now, so we visit as often as our budget will allow.
Four visits ago, we took Mum to lunch as usual, but she couldn’t remember much about the previous times, other than she ‘liked it’. It had registered that we were living on a boat and she was quite interested about the change in lifestyle and how the dog was coping.
Three visits ago, again we went to lunch, but were asked where we were living now on several occasions throughout the meal. She didn’t call either of us by name, but was anxious about the dog in the car.
Two visits ago, we couldn’t afford to take Mum out, so had a sandwich lunch at my sister’s and a few laughs over us kids growing up. I noticed she called my niece by my name, and again soon got tired, and withdrew into herself.
Our last trip was almost a fortnight ago.
My Mum was not well and resting in bed when we arrived.
My sister finally got the doctor to her as she had not been feeling well either and they were both diagnosed as suffering from bronchitis. The antibiotics are working their magic, and Mum is on the mend, albeit slowly, and her appetite is returning.
Dementia is taking its hold, but I am grateful that she is living with family, and has regular visitors by way of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and now a great great grandson.
I appreciate it is not easy for my sister having to deal with everything every day, though she is lucky in that at the moment she can leave Mum resting in bed and have a few hours to herself, either walking the dog, shopping, or socialising with her friends in the club next door.
We had offered to take over the reins several years ago before we put the house up for sale, but Mum wanted to stay where she was, where she felt needed, and where she was most familiar.
On our visits, I ask if she’s had my latest letter, knowing I sent it by email to my sister so that she can read what is going on in our lives and print it off for her.
The answer is usually No.
I ask if she’s heard from either of my brothers, and again, it’s usually a negative answer.
I contact Bro in NZ after every visit to let him know how she is, and it’s harder for him being so far away as he cannot visit. Again, she doesn’t know who the voice on the phone belongs to, though he rings at least once a month.
I have little contact with Other Brother so I don’t know if he rings or visits at all.
I look at my Mum and remember so many things, some good, some bad, some happy, some sad. When she looks at me, I have no idea who she sees, but if I can make her laugh or smile, and help jog just a little of those happier times, she may remember I am her ‘Baby’, the youngest of her children, and I love her so very, very much.