Once again I have been on the roller-coaster ride of caring for an elderly mother with #Alzheimer’s. I have three siblings all living a fair distance from our mother and all with their own family commitments and so due to geographics I have become the primary carer and it is a minefield! If you think the role just entails caring for the elderly person it does not as it also means juggling all the needs of the other members of the family. Start with my own – I regularly have to call on my own husband and children to cover for me when I am unavailable and however much they love their mother-in-law/grandmother it is always a big ask and I think I may be running out of ‘get out of jail free’ cards. Then there are my other siblings, some who are very supportive and some who are not for various reasons but who sometimes I just want to send a video of ‘a week in the life of our mother’s carer’ i.e. My Week!!
Currently my mother is under doctor’s orders to be kept quiet as she has anaemia however she forgets and goes off for walks and either doesn’t make it back or is found sitting on a bench with no idea why or where she is meant to be. I share the caring with two young girls but they too have family crises that mean I have to drop everything and rush over to cover for them. Between us we go in three times a day and this is all in an effort to keep my mother out of a nursing home for as long as we can.
She appreciates the effort and is definitely not ready for life in a care home though sometimes I think I might be there before her! I have blogged before about being part of the sandwich generation i.e. still having children living at home plus having to care for elderly parents but as medicine improves, enabling longer lives, maybe apart from ‘affordable housing’ we need to be building more houses with attached flats for the elderly as is the case on the continent. Nothing beats being looked after by your own family as they can help with memories and are more likely to know their likes and dislikes. Yesterday I made my mother stuffed mushrooms as I suddenly remembered how much she loved them and she was over the moon and it triggered memories of mushroom picking around the farm we all lived on when we were young. However it is not always practical and how many people have a ground floor bedroom and bathroom plus, as in the case of my mother, she did not want to leave the area that she had lived in most of her married life.
Apart from the day to day care there is an army of other people that have to be organised from a distance, pedicurist, hairdresser, dog groomer, gardener, district nurse, doctor and so on! The trips to the hospital, optician, dentist, outings to see friends or journeys to pick up friends who are also elderly but want to visit and I am the only form of transport. Bills to be paid, shopping to be done, dry cleaning to be picked up and of course the inevitable washing and ironing which carers have no time to do. It is virtually a full time job and one that sometimes, when I stop to think about, is overwhelming and not particularly rewarding as I am not sure she remembers that I have even been let alone is aware of all that I have done so it is, understandably, a thankless task but you have to keep reminding yourself that this is better than the alternative and it is the right thing to do.
We try to make her life easier and her house is a mass of post-it notes with helpful guidance e.g. ‘don’t leave the house without your keys & walking stick’. Her current party trick is to go around the house unplugging necessary life helping gadgets e.g the telephone, her bath lift and the kettle. So yesterday I drank a cup of cold, unbrewed tea which she wanted to make for me and I did not want to upset her by telling her the mistake. Every part of her body hurts in some way or another and sometimes I feel the same way as I struggle to keep all elements of my life together. My own husband is 13 years older than me and will be 70 years old next year so it is a time that we would like to be able to be carefree and with no ties and thus be able to take off travelling before we are too old to really enjoy it but right now I am not sure I could even consider going for more than a week at the most.
I have just finished reading a stunning debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, which is poignant, funny, sad, frustrating and intriguing and is all about an 82 year old woman, Maud, suffering from Alzheimer’s, who believes that her friend Elizabeth is missing. I have no idea what knowledge the author has of Alzheimer’s but she gets inside the head of Maud and expresses what she is thinking in a most believable way. If you have any contact with this distressing illness then please do give it a read. A more detailed review is HERE. It has really helped me and confirmed that the life of my mother is normal for sufferers of this illness.