Wednesday, 21 March 2007

letter to Mum's GP

Dear Doctor S

I am writing to you because I am concerned about my Mother who is a patient at your surgery. I have been aware for some years that Mum is experiencing increasing problems coping with things, and I have done my best to intervene or come up with solutions, though it is sometimes hard to do so from Yorkshire! As she can present as quite bright on occasion, and seems blissfully unaware of the chaos she often causes, I am writing to you to inform you about her, and to ask for some advice as to how we should proceed.

The problems, as I see it are the following:

1) Short-term memory loss. Mum gets things turned around in her head within the same conversation, and often remembers precisely the opposite of what she has been told. She is often unaware of the day of the week or the time. She is very poor with figures, unable to do basic arithmetic or tell sometimes which number of two is the greater. She is extremely vulnerable to suggestion, and is wont to respond to junk mail as if it is obligatory – signing up for new insurance when already insured or sending off thousands of pounds to charity. She has handed me bank statements in the past, believing them to be bills.

2) Loss of abilities. I have recently had to replace the cordless telephone that Mum had been using for 7 years with a simpler one, since she could no longer understand how to work it. She no longer understands her oven, and the Warden at her apartments found all her electric hobs turned up to high yesterday, with items stacked on them. He is quite concerned about her, too. Some friends of hers have taken her dog to live with them, since it was defecating inside the flat.

3) Physical frailty. Mum is quite stooped now, and walks with a shuffling gait, with her back twisted to one side. She has fallen over in the High Street a few times, and uses her shopping trolley rather like a Zimmer-frame for support.

4) Food. I have instigated deliveries from Wiltshire and Sussex Farm Foods, since I was worried that Mum wasn’t feeding herself at all well. Whenever I do visit, I find severely out-of-date items in her fridge. If we shop together, Mum follows me around the supermarket choosing whatever I choose. She appears bewildered by the displays and possibly unable to tell what things are.

I have plenty of anecdotes to back up what I have briefly covered above, but I’ll spare you the grim details for now. I was hoping that maybe you could advise me on how to go about having Mum assessed by Social Services for any support you can think of. It’s my belief that Mum would benefit from someone calling on her a few times a week, and perhaps helping her to shop. If there is any medication that Mum could also take to improve her faculties or slow down her deterioration, that would also be most welcome.

Please could I ask you to treat my letter with confidence as far as my Mother is concerned? She would be most upset to know that I have sent this to you. If you would prefer to talk to me, my telephone number is ............
Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours most sincerely

Tuesday, 20 March 2007


Mum rang me thrilled to have spoken with my brother-in-law, though she couldn't remember a single detail from the conversation she had just had.

The Warden tells me that she's told everyone who will listen at the flats about the 'mystery empty box' delivery, apparently. I rang her, after talking to him this morning, to remind her that we'd solved the mystery on Sunday: that she'd emptied the box herself on Saturday and then forgotten about it. She reacted completely shocked, as if it was all news to her.

The Warden rang me because he was very concerned to find all four of Mum's electric hobs turned up to full, with pans and other items stacked on them. He's worried that she's a fire risk. I've decided I must now get around to writing to her Doctors to initiate some sort of assessment process.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

empty box

I had spoken to Mum during the week and warned her that I couldn't afford much this Mothers' Day but that I would be sending something small.

Yesterday, I got an excited phone-call.

"I went out to the shops and when I came back, I found two packages outside my door. The flowers have come and THANK YOU, they're BEAUTIFUL!"
"Mum, I'm sorry, but they must be from your son-in-law. I didn't send you flowers"
"Oh..." [sounds of consternation]
"Was there a card with the flowers?"
"Yes, but I didn't open it"
"Well why are you thanking me for them?"
"I just assumed"
"You said there were two packages?"
"Well the other one is probably the one from me. Why don't you leave it until tomorrow to open?"

Today, the phone rang again.

"Hello Mum. Happy Mother's Day"
"My washing machine has broken, so I rang...... etc"

There followed a long conversation discussing the situation regarding the washing machine, the fact that the water was shut off yesterday (when she used it) and my patient explanation as to how that could be the problem. I added my standard request "Please Please Please call ME before calling any company", which will naturally be ignored as usual.

"So, anyway, Mum. I said 'Happy Mother's Day' "
"Yes, well I thanked you yesterday for that"
"No, Mum, you thanked me for the flowers - but they weren't from me"
"No, they were from your brother-in-law. They are beautiful. But you know something odd? The box that came with them was empty!"
"Yes, well I opened it this morning and there was nothing inside it"
"Oh No!"

So I got her to describe the box to me, reading out all the details on it's surface. This took several attempts, each one with a protestation that she'd already told me everything, and each revealing more details. I was trying to establish if this was some extra part of my brother-in-law's present, or if it was mine. I pointed out that the box was most likely MY gift.

"No, I got chocolates from you"
[gasp] "Right... yes... so, 'Happy Mother's Day' then"
"So I wonder what happened to whatever was inside this box!"
"Mum, I said 'Happy Mother's Day'. Are you going to thank me for the chocolates?"
"No, well I did that yesterday"
"No.... you didn't. You thanked me for the flowers, which weren't from me"
"Oh!" [consternation]

This is where I began to see the solution. I suggested to Mum that she'd opened the box yesterday, taken out the chocolates, and then opened the box again this morning to find it empty. After all, the chocolates must have come in SOMETHING, and how did she know that they were from me? Mum found this offensive and got angry with me. Mother's Day was turning out to be REALLY worth it! I ended the call with a rather forced repeat of "Happy Mother's Day!"

I got up and decided to check my order receipt from Thorntons. As anticipated, the order number matched the one printed on the mystery box. So my scenario had been correct. Moments later, the phone rang. Mum sounded like she'd proved something.

"I found this card on the display unit... it says 'Happy Mother's Day, Love G' "

I'm learning to accept a silent victory when Mum proves my point for me, even though she has no idea she's doing it...

Wednesday, 7 March 2007


The phone rings:

[Mum's croaky scared voice] "I've got a bit of a problem"
"What's that then?"
"I want to tell someone my phone number... but I... can you tell me what my phone number is?"
"Okay, have you got a pen there?"
"Just a moment... okay"
"Right, it's.... [I slowly list the numbers of her phone number]"
"Okay, now let's see what I've got in this book"
[looks in her address book]
"I've got ..... [she reads out MY phone number]"
"Mum, that's MY number"
"Oh" [stunned]
"Did someone ask you for my number?"
"Well, you've just read out my number"
[exasperated] "Well, I want to GIVE people your number"
"No, Mum, you've just rung me to find out your own number. You've just written it down"
"Mum, who did you want to tell your number to?"
"Sheila and Don. They ring me all the time, you know"
"Why don't they have your number already, then?"
"Because it's changed, hasn't it?"

[this is the point I realise that Mum thinks her number has changed because I've replaced her telephone with a simpler model]