Friday 30 November 2007

horror show

I drove in darkness through heavy rain and buffeted by frightening gusts of wind that made me feel the car was going to be scooped off the motorway. I arrived at midnight after a 7 hour journey.

Mum was asleep sitting up in her chair in the living room. The flat was as hot as hell and stank terribly. Mum looked hell, too. Her face was haggard and had a blue-whiteness to it. She looked scary-thin. I saw that her ankles had swollen massively, like Hobbit feet, from weeks of not ever being raised. I roused her, said hello, and set to exhorting her to sleep in her bed tonight. She finally acquiesced, but then she could hardly walk, even supported on my arm.

I let the dog outside and she immediately began shitting everywhere. I could see stains on the carpet in various places inside indicating that being outside was a rare treat for this dog these days.

It took me an hour-and-a-half to get Mum into bed. First we had to find her silk pillow and she couldn't find a nightie anywhere. I kept telling her to wash her face and clean her teeth, but she'd just stand in the doorway, transfixed, with her jaw flapping silently. The bathroom smelled worst of all: a mixture of mould, rotten food and possibly sewage. There were several frozen meal plastic trays in the bathroom, half-consumed, and dirty underwear stuck in corners. There was no toothpaste to be found, so I gave Mum my tube. 

Mum couldn't undress without my aid - couldn't remove her skirt. How long had she been wearing it? How long since she'd showered? She couldn't give me a credible answer. I left her to get into bed, but she came back to the guest room naked. I found a slip for her to wear, made her drink something and filled her hot water bottle.

I was exhausted, but my night wasn't over. Mum came into my room at 3am and at 5am, talking crazy irrelevant nonsense.

a bit more about me

Anyone who has checked out the excellent blog "Alzheimer's Moments" will understand why I feel so guilty. Here's a man who has crossed a continent to go and live with his Mom and support her himself rather than see her institutionalised. His tone is usually one of gentle amusement, fascination or wistful sadness where mine is usually one of gloom, despair or sheer terror. I respect and admire the Author and I find his posts to be 'chicken soup for the soul' (well, I'm vegetarian, so probably more like 'leek and potato'.... except that I don't like soup either..... hmmm).

Anyway, once again I'm feeling the need to expose a bit more of my personal circumstances in mitigation for my being such a poor excuse for a Son. This is not meant to exonerate me, but I hope it will help the reader understand where I'm coming from, and where some of my decisions originate.

I've referred to a new job role recently. The fact is that I've been away from work for the past 5-and-a-half years after a breakdown and consequent Chronic Fatigue problems. I have suffered on-and-off from Depression since probably 1992 (it was first diagnosed in '95) but it was a condition managed by medication until a work crisis broke me in 2002. At that time I spent 18-20 hours per day asleep and I couldn't hope to manage my own affairs. My brain is still scrambled, and I'm sure some of my decisions may strike those around me as odd. I still struggle to cope with my own day-to-day problems, and find dealing with Mum's often overwhelming (as is no doubt obvious).

My company kept me on their books on a very low retainer all this time until last month, when I was given an ultimatum to return to work or face state benefits. It couldn't have come at a worse time given that this was precisely when Mum's condition took a steep downward turn. Just when I need time to spend time with her, investigate Care Homes or come up with an alternative solution, I'm chained to a desk trying to re-integrate with a company that outwardly talks about flexibility but is actually intractable.

It was pointed out to me this afternoon that the company might think that I've invented this whole situation with Mum to excuse further absenteeism. The idea is profoundly shocking, but it could explain some of the feedback I've been getting. I just don't think that way myself, so I'm reeling right now. It might be a good idea for me to gather some documentation together just in case I need to present proof to them.

comedy II: a visit to the Doctor

I don't call these posts "comedy" because I'm laughing (see "comedy"), but because there's a farcical aspect to the incidents.

Here's what I know about Mum's visit to the Doctor on Wednesday:

I had telephoned the Surgery to make the appointment for Mum. I booked transport for her. I told the Warden all about it and asked him to intercept Mum if it looked like she was going out to the shops. I rang Mum 30 minutes before the appointment to remind her about it. I checked that Mum had indeed left at the correct time.

So far so organised.

At the Surgery, Mum was asked to take a seat in the waiting room, but when her Doctor came to get her she was nowhere to be found. It took them 20 minutes to find her in another part of the building in a corner somewhere. Mum didn't recall what the appointment was about (the fungal infection that was making her foot hurt) but asked the Doctor to inspect her swollen ankle (again). The Doctor thought the swelling looked mild, but suggested a blood test and asked for a urine sample to check for a return of the bladder infection (bladder infections can cause confusion). The Doctor pointed to the toilet but by the time Mum had come out she had mislaid the sample cup and forgotten what she had gone in to do. She wandered out to the waiting room and told the Driver that it was time to go. Meantime, the Nurses were trying to find her to take her blood sample. She could not be found. 

Mum returned to the flats, introducing the Driver to everyone she met as her Doctor, come to visit her.

The Warden called me to say that he was concerned that Mum couldn't produce any pills or cream prescribed for the infection, so I telephoned and spoke to the Doctor concerned who told me all of the above. Once he knew about the reason for her visit, he decided to call on Mum at home. Blood and urine were taken and everything checked out.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

every time we say hello

It's happening again. 

I only made up my mind to go down and visit Mum yesterday and she has already called me up 3 times this afternoon, asking me where I am and when I'm going to arrive. She thinks it's today I'm coming. She evidently thinks my land line reaches me wherever I am, too.

Each time she rang I explained that it was at the weekend that I would be coming down and that I work during the week. 

Each time she reacted as if to say "Of course! I knew that!"

And then she would call again.

Each time I asked her what day it was today. Each time she had no idea. I would tell her to look at her clock, but she would read out the date every time I asked her for the day.

I'd forgotten how hard this is. I'm feeling exhausted even before the long drive down.


The Social Worker has just telephoned again, and we had another good chat about options for Mum. We discussed various styles of Care Homes and Private in-home Care. She is contractually prevented from recommending specific service providers, but she was able to give me a range of options to look at while I'm visiting this coming weekend.

I found one thing she said a particularly interesting insight: that Mum's disorientation is like that of a tortured prisoner. Think about it: she is depriving herself of food and water, her sleep patterns are disturbed and she is suffering from an infection. Meantime, we're all circling around her threatening to make big changes in her life on her behalf that must seem scary.

It's a perspective that I'm going to have to keep in mind, especially when I catch Mum telling me exactly what she thinks I want to hear.


I had a call from the Warden first thing this morning. Yesterday, Mum's Chiropodist/Podiatrist had been concerned to find another growth between Mum's toes, and had immediately called for a Doctor's appointment, which has been arranged today. It looks like Mum may need some help washing herself.

Anyway, the Warden pointed out that this was inevitably going to mean a prescription of anti-biotics again (can I cope with that again?). I'm not a devout man, but it seems almost too perfect that I was planning to spend time with Mum anyway - I'll ask the Warden to regulate her pills until Friday when I come down for the visit.

The Warden expressed surprise that the Doctor hadn't inspected her feet when Mum went on Monday about her swollen ankles, but I suddenly worked it out: Mum would have got to the Surgery and not remembered why she was going. They'd have had a very general chat about nothing in particular. That would explain why Mum was very vague about his advice when I rang her afterwards. How stupid of me not to see that coming. From now on, I should ask to speak to the Doctor directly when I make an appointment for Mum.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

another verdict

Well, the Social Worker spoke to me this evening about her meeting with Mum yesterday.

She told me that she was VERY concerned about Mum: that she had appeared extremely disoriented and was obviously not managing on her own. Mum had made many claims about being able to cope, but these had been pretty easy to see through as confabulations. The Warden had sat in on the conversation and had gently corrected Mum whenever necessary, bringing up such incidents as Mum's wandering out onto the by-pass.

When the subject of frozen meals came up, Mum at first claimed that she managed to cook them fine, and then shortly afterwards expressed distrust of her microwave oven (the only functioning cooking device in her kitchen). She was unaware that her built-in oven had been disconnected and claimed that she cooked the frozen meals in there. It's possible that she hasn't been eating anything BUT her one delivered meal per day, and the Social Worker guessed that Mum was probably giving half of THAT to the dog.

I had organised a visit to the Doctor yesterday after Mum had told me that her ankles were swollen on Sunday. This hadn't resulted in any diagnosis, but the Social Worker pointed out that the swelling is most likely due to the fact that Mum is not making it to her bed at night and sleeping, instead, sitting up in her chair. Her fluids are naturally pooling at her feet because she's not elevating them. The Social Worker told me that Mum had somehow managed to turn off the heating to her bedroom and had consequently stopped using the room at night.

When the Social Worker expressed concern about Mum being financially exploited, I took the opportunity to let rip about several incidents that I had noted over the past 7 years: the helpful 'handy man' who befriended Mum just when she was selling up our family home and who made off with most of our stuff; the Spanish property company who flew Mum out to a resort and pressured her into a deal for a building that had no planning permission and which wasn't built 2 years later (she lost about £50,000 on that one); the catalogue firms that prey on her; the £70,000 I think she's donated to charity in the past 7 years; the £300 she still spends on miracle pills each month because she believes every whacky thing in print.

The Social Worker said that she felt the Consultant's diagnosis of 'mild to moderate dementia' was perhaps generous and that from what she'd seen Mum was 'moderate to severe' in her view. We discussed the sort of Care Homes I should be looking at, and also more immediate arrangements for twice-daily visits from someone to make Mum's breakfast and dinner, and maybe help her plan her shopping.

I've pretty much decided to travel down South this weekend and visit a couple of homes close to Mum, perhaps with a view to getting Mum to try one for a month or so around Christmas. I may even bring her up here to stay with me for a week, so that we can visit the two I looked at last Sunday. The thought of coping with her here, though, is frightening. I'm not sure she'll do well with the stairs in my house, or be able to use my bath. I'm barely feeding myself right these days so the thought of caring for someone very needy already overwhelms me.

Monday 26 November 2007

what did I say?

A Social Worker was scheduled to visit Mum today to assess her needs should she go into Care. She arrived at 1:30pm. It's almost 4pm now and I just rang a few minutes ago to ask Mum how things had gone. 

Mum picked up the phone and there was the usual delay while she fumbled with the handset and pressed various numeric keys while making little noises of surprise and consternation. I could hear the Social Worker in the background gently reminding her how to operate a phone ("no... just hold the receiver to your ear"). When Mum worked out what she was doing, I told her that I realised that her visitor was still there so I'd leave it and ring her back later. 

I heard Mum tell the Social Worker that I was happy that she was there and that I had asked to speak to her.

Now I could easily start to worry about Mum's inability to understand my simple statement, but I'm going to put this one down to her being so thrilled at having company that she couldn't spare any attention to what I had actually said and just invented something that seemed likely.

Anyway, the Social Worker and I had a brief exchange in which she told me of her understanding of the situation from Mum's point of view. Mum had obviously given a rather bizarre version of her wishes, which I will attempt to correct tomorrow.

Sunday 25 November 2007

a good day out

I had a much more successful day today hunting for Care Homes. This time I was looking about an hour's drive away from where I am but a lot closer to where our relatives live. After my last 2 dispiriting attempts, I had decided that what I wanted to look for was a place where Mum could have a small apartment to herself, but where all meals were provided and where staff would be available 24 hours a day, should they be needed.

The first place I looked at fitted the bill very well. It is set in its own pleasant grounds and consists of a main building and a selection of bungalows set around courtyards to one side. The main building has some very pleasant social rooms to the ground floor, including a bar and restaurant, and there's even an indoor swimming pool for hydrotherapy. There are some apartments within the building, and also a corridor of single rooms for those who require more hands-on nursing. Outside, I was shown one of the bungalows which is currently unoccupied, though has already been reserved. The decor inside was a little tired, but the house had all that Mum would need, and she would be free to have it altered and redecorated as she wished, since she would be buying it. The Nurse showing me around told me that some residents had in fact bought 2 adjoining bungalows and knocked through to make a larger dwelling, but that's not an option Mum can afford, and I don't think that there's a need. Overall, I got a good feeling about this place. I could see several residents socialising in the communal areas, and I warmed to the relaxed attitude of the staff. I think Mum will respond to the cachet of the place - it has a bit of a country-club feel to it.

Next up was a brand new development I had only found on the internet last night. This building only opened 6 weeks ago, so everything looks perfect. But it's the innovative approach of the organisation that appealed to me. They're a not-for-profit organisation who seem to be re-thinking everything for senior care. Within the one building they've got some nicely appointed apartments, a whole floor of individual nursing rooms, but also several 'households' made up of single rooms clustered around a lounge and kitchen and run by staff as 'families'. Again, I think the best fit for Mum would be a private apartment, which she would have the option of either buying or renting. Downstairs there was more of a canteen than a restaurant, but they serve 3 meals a day. There was also an entertainment room, a hair salon, a Doctor's Surgery and even a gym. One aspect of the place that I thought would particularly appeal to Mum was that the bathrooms were essentially 'wet rooms', in that there was no bath or shower tray to climb in and out of but simply a shower rail and a drain in the floor. That was a key selling point over the 'country club', though I suppose we could pay to have a wet room plumbed in there. The attitude of the staff here was fresh and enthusiastic and the quality of the accommodations very good indeed. The only quibble I'd have is that its setting is a suburban one, looking out onto streets and houses while the other place looked out onto greenery, but I'd struggle to say which Home I preferred.

So, I've gone from despairing, earlier this week, to now having more than one option. I've collected brochures from both places to send to Mum.

Friday 23 November 2007


Yesterday I received a large envelope in the mail containing a treasure trove of unsent documents, including tax and insurance forms that I had repeatedly asked Mum about over the last month or so. My Birthday Card was in there, too, and like several other items it was stamped and addressed but had simply not made it out of the door. I knew that this windfall was due to C's initiative on Wednesday, so I rang the Warden (C's partner) and left a message to say thanks.

This morning, the Warden rang to tell me more about what C had seen in Mum's apartment. Apparently, the place was in a dreadful state. In the kitchen there were rotting food items on all surfaces: half-eaten meals, banana skins, opened soup cans left out, and so on. The dog's food was all over the floor and dog mess on the carpet. It took C a whole hour to clear the kitchen and then another to deal with the bathroom. It was only after this that she sat down at the dining table and started sifting through Mum's huge pile of correspondence.

I told the Warden that I was very grateful that C had taken extra time beyond her usual hour, and told him that I was keen that she be paid for this time and any further time she can spare in future weeks.

Am I kidding myself when I reject homes like the ones I saw yesterday?

Thursday 22 November 2007

more home hunting

I had a phone call yesterday from the House Manager of one of the Care Homes I visited 2 weekends ago. She brought our conversation to an abrupt halt once she reached the section in her notes that told of Mum's problems with Dementia. She told me that there were other homes run by the same company that would be better suited.

So today I used my day off work to go and visit 2 more properties run by the same Healthcare group, this time closer to my home. Both were indicated as dealing with Dementia. The first was a grand old stone mansion typical of this area of Yorkshire, the stones still blackened with Victorian soot. This place wasn't as vast as the Manor house I saw last time but was still very nicely appointed and from the exterior looked like it might appeal to Mum. The staff were warm and friendly. I was given a brochure of the place and the Receptionist looked for some additional information and gave me a smaller booklet on bereavement (I hope that was an error on her part - I really should consider buying some clothes that aren't black).

It turned out that the home was split between Nursing Care and Dementia Care. I was shown around the Dementia unit. The Residents' rooms were pleasant, though I could see that Mum would take issue with the en-suite facilities, which were limited to basin and toilet. I know Mum would like her own shower. Then we entered the communal lounge and my jaw dropped. All the residents were pretty far gone in their Dementia. Several were asleep in their chairs, a couple were babbling away toothlessly, and one was directly in our path, motionless and bent over as if she was trying to touch her toes. While the Manor 2 weeks ago had smelt faintly of urine, I'm sorry to say that this place reeked of shit. There's no way I could persuade Mum to go there, and I don't think it's the right place for her. I made a swift exit.

Next up was a smaller place even closer to home, but the Receptionist here was very clear from the start that unless my Mother needed Nursing specifically then this wasn't the right place for her. Nevertheless, she showed me around and I was encouraged to see the Residents sitting watching a movie together with plenty of staff around them. The Receptionist dug out some useful booklets, including one on Alzheimer's and one on funding a Care place (I suspect this is the one that the woman at the first place intended to give me - being a similar size). She recommended I use the resources of the Alzheimer's Society and Age Concern to track down an appropriate home for Mum.

So, another unsuccessful couple of visits, but I'm slowly learning the difference between Residential, Nursing and Dementia Care, so it's all useful. I've yet to see a place that I'd be happy to show to Mum as a possibility, but I'm confident that I'm closing in on the target.

I got home to find an answer-phone message from the Warden, telling me that he had some more concerns about Mum which he wanted to pass on. He's going to call me tomorrow.

Wednesday 21 November 2007


Two chequebooks for Mum's spending account arrived by post this morning. All Mum's Bank correspondence comes here nowadays, so I get the chequebooks as well. Getting two suggests that Mum has been into the Bank or phoned the Bank twice asking for more cheques. It's not very long since I sent the last book down to her, so I give her a call. Mum sounds bright and breezy - she has company.

"C is here!" (C cleans for Mum once a week)
"Lovely... I'm ringing because I've just had a couple of chequebooks delivered here for your account and.."
"Oh?" Mum sounds alarmed.
".... I was just wondering how you were doing for cheques down there?"
"Oh, I'm fine. I've got plenty of cheques."

There's spluttering in the background and I hear C pointing out that Mum could do with some more cheques. I ask if I can speak to her. C tells me that Mum's hairdresser also visited today and left without payment because Mum couldn't find a cheque to write. I tell her that I'll send down a book by post tomorrow morning. C asks if I would like to speak to Mum again. I say I would but I hear Mum say that she'll talk to me later. Of course, she doesn't ring back. She doesn't ring at all these days. Not since our last conversation about the shower.

I'm curious to see Mum's next Bank statement. She seems to be going through a lot of cheques. 

While writing this up just (it's evening now) I took a call from Mum's hairdresser, who told me that she hasn't been able to get a cheque from Mum these last 2 weeks. While I am still concerned about Mum's vulnerability to fraud, I'm suddenly more worried that she fobbed me off saying that she had plenty, a full 2 weeks after running out, and after having to disappoint those providing services to her over and over. It's not a good sign if it means she's that confused and it's no better if it means she's trying to keep me out of her affairs.

Tuesday 20 November 2007


Here are a few sections of the letter I received this morning from the Consultant Psychiatrist. He brought his visit forward by a couple of weeks, since Mum was driving everyone crazy about her appointment on the 30th.

"..a pleasant lady, who has only partial insight into her problems. She scored 22/30 in MMSE* with 2/5 in orientation to time, 1/3 in recall section, 2/5 in attention and concentration, and 8/9 in language. There seems to be global impairment of her cognitive abilities. Her CT scan shows both atrophic and vascular changes..."

"I can conclude that she is suffering from mixed pathology dementia, mild to moderate in degree..."

"I gather that her Son is looking at supervised residential care and I think that it is a step in the right direction..."

It's interesting to have the breakdown of Mum's scores. Her 8/9 in language explains why she fools casual acquaintances so successfully.

*Mini Mental State Examination


I've been pretty exhausted this past week, struggling to integrate into my new job, so I'm afraid I've taken advantage of Mum having forgotten me, and I've not called her for fear of getting embroiled in one of her tornadoes, where I'm swept up in a huge twister of half-truths, fabrications and emotion only to settle down a few days later in exactly the same place and with nothing achieved.

But I have been checking up on Mum by phoning the Warden. Today he told me that he arrived at 9 this morning only to find that Mum had called his office phone several times in the early hours. Before he could investigate, a Taxi turned up and the Driver informed him that he'd taken an early call to take Mum to the local Hospital A&E (ER). The Warden accompanied the Driver down the corridor to Mum's apartment in order to find out what was wrong. Mum told him that she'd injured her toe. He asked Mum to humour him and take off her shoe, and she revealed a perfectly normal foot with no apparent injury or inflammation. It turned out that one of her toenails had grown a little long and was rubbing against the side of her shoe. Hardly a candidate for the Casualty Department. Mum's chiropodist was in the building today, so the Warden arranged for Mum to have her toenails clipped and all was right again.

My point in recording this is that Mum is independent enough to sort herself out after a fashion and arrange things (even if it's mostly the wrong thing). I'm now looking to find a new home for her that is a bit more than just a room in a house, but maybe a small apartment or bungalow within a complex, just to give her that sense of independence, even though she'd be leaning on the support available to a greater and greater extent as time passed.

Monday 12 November 2007


I called the Warden at lunchtime to ask how Mum was, remembering what he'd told me last week: that she is at her worst on a Monday when she's been left unsupported through the weekend.

He immediately informed me that there had been another formal complaint against Mum, this time from the gardeners. They'd found the patch of grass outside Mum's apartment littered with dog shit. We've pretty much determined that Mum is not giving the dog the long involved walks that Mum describes, but it seems Mum has lost the compunction to rush out and scoop up the poop, which she was still doing when I was visiting in September. The Warden suggested that this was another sign of her rapid decline.

He also mentioned that Mum had been spotted heading off to do some shopping on Sunday morning about 8am, about 2 hours before anything was open, clearly unaware what day of the week it was. Apparently, she is also stepping into the road directly after pressing the button at the pedestrian crossing, having forgotten that you should wait until the display shows the green figure. It's only a matter of time before she has another bad scare or accident on that crossing.

I've really got to do something and quick. I'd like to find a place for her somewhere for Christmas - sell it to Mum as a break and then see whether she enjoys the extra attention and the food enough to want to stay.


I spent a long day on Saturday driving around the North-West of England looking at Care Homes.

The first stop looked great online: an impressive stone mansion in its own grounds. I thought it would appeal to Mum's taste for the high-life, and a certain level of care was implied because it is operated by a well-known healthcare company. In reality, sadly, the original Manor has been vastly and not-too-sensitively extended to provide up to a hundred more rooms. These are on the generic side, though reasonably large and all en-suite. But the place feels gloomy and deserted and smells a little of urine. I was oppressed by the huge bare communal lounges devoid of anyone socialising. The only residents I saw were sitting alone in their rooms with their doors open to the corridor. On the plus side, the nurse that showed us around seemed warm and kind and the presence of the gentleman on reception in a tight grey wig, skirt and make-up implied a tolerant and surprisingly individual atmosphere given the size of the operation and the corporate nature of the owners.

Next up was a smaller place on the edge of a peninsula and actually close to where we had once lived as a family. I was very keen on this place in principle given the familiar surroundings and great views. Initial impressions were equally favourable: the interior was very well maintained with an 'arts and crafts' feel to it. The communal areas were exquisite and far more home-like than at the Manor, but again empty of residents. Once again, all the old folk were in their rooms. Small rooms. Most of them without a private bathroom. They take their meals there because there isn't a dining room downstairs. The Senior Nurse who showed us around seemed extremely competent if a touch steely. I worried that maybe the place was a little strict. It certainly seemed even less stimulating than the previous place.

After that, the other two places ruled themselves out of consideration due to location or poor presentation. One of them was so shabby and decrepit that I couldn't even find a door-bell and I wasn't too happy about the cracked window I saw either. The other was too near a busy road for my liking, given Mum's propensity to wander.

So I left my house at 10am and was back at around 1:30am and no closer to finding a new home for Mum. I'm sure the exhaustion is still colouring my reaction, but I keep telling myself that at least I've started looking.

Thursday 8 November 2007


Someone rings Mum's doorbell.

Mum goes to the intercom but presses the red emergency button instead of the "speak" or "enter" buttons.

Not getting the response she wants, Mum decides to walk down the long corridor to the front door in order to let her visitor in. It takes her about 5 minutes to get there.

Meantime, someone from "Careline" is calling out through the intercom system in Mum's flat, asking if she's okay.

As they get no response, they call an ambulance.

A typical chaotic morning for all those around Mum. Three hours later she has no memory of it at all.

Tuesday 6 November 2007


I felt guilty the first time I went live with this blog. I had collected a backlog of emails to my Brother-in-Law, and I began to post entries that he could look at when convenient rather than getting to his desk in the morning to find several long complaints from me. 

Even though no-one was looking my way other than him, I felt I was betraying Mum.

Since then, this blog has had some regular visitors and I've been grateful to get a few kind comments and expressions of concern. It has made such a difference to know that someone else was reading all this and found what I wrote meaningful or moving. This was an unanticipated benefit from the blog.

A part of me feels guilty, of course, that I'm making myself feel better by exposing (betraying) Mum.

Recently, I've posted a couple of pictures of Mum, for which I felt guilt all over again. My picture and name are up here now as a small expiation.

I'm worried that my morality has slipped incrementally, so that what made me uneasy and ashamed in the first weeks is now simply not enough. I am a little vague as to whether each indignity I publish is really an effort to be truthful to what's going on, or proof to myself that I am an ungrateful Son. 

Am I looking for an edge, for a damning betrayal? How far will I go?

Today, in the real world, I betrayed Mum in a way I feel horrible about. I cancelled the installation of her new shower.

When Mum and I had our conversation last week about the complaints that had been made about her, she took the news with no apparent distress, but suddenly cut in with: "What about my shower?" I lied and said that I hadn't thought about that but, now that she mentioned it, there seemed to be little point in spending £2,000 on something she might get only a few weeks' use out of. This was the news that knocked the wind out of her - I heard the breath come out of her and her voice plummeted to rock-bottom. I rescued her by quickly saying that we would ensure that her next residence would have an en-suite shower. Since then, though, I've felt too cowardly and wretched to do anything about cancelling the installation. It was a decision that would acknowledge that Mum really will be moving out.

Today, after the Warden said once again that he thought Mum should move out in a matter of weeks rather than months, I finally phoned the Plumber and left a message that I needed to stop the job.

It's by no means my first betrayal. I am sickened by the thought that it won't be my last.

more of the same

Mum seems to have fallen out of the habit of calling me since Thursday, and I've been taking a break, myself, in order to concentrate on a new job I started yesterday. However, I did phone around a few people today.

The Warden said that Mum was declining rapidly, that she was beginning to look a little unkempt, and that she'd been up to his office close to 15 times this morning with an appointment card in her hand asking him to help her organise a taxi today. Each time, he had explained that the appointment was for the 30th November, and that the card clearly stated that someone would be picking her up to take her there.

Next I spoke to the Community Psychiatric Nurse, who informed me that the CT scan had come back and that it does indeed show some damage to Mum's brain. It's her opinion that the Consultant's diagnosis will be that the damage is from 'mixed' causes, rather than straightforward Alzheimer's. It's more likely that Mum has been suffering from a succession of TIAs and that the dementia is vascular. The CPN said that even in the short period that she's known Mum she has seen a definite decline, and that I should place Mum in care very soon. Mum has been assigned a Social Worker, who I can ask questions about what sort of Home would be suitable for Mum, and how to finance it.

Finally, I spoke to Mum's Bank Manager to ask a question related to the Power of Attorney I hold for Mum. She asked how Mum was doing, and divulged that they'd seen her on Friday after Mum couldn't remember her PIN once again, and that a staff member had accompanied her to the Post Office to help her. I can't imagine a larger town branch being so helpful, and I'm so grateful to them that they are patient with Mum.

It looks like I'll be spending the weekend visiting Care Homes.

Friday 2 November 2007


Mum rang me yesterday in the early afternoon and began the call with: "I went to [the Warden] and told him what you'd told me about how I'm the most unpopular person there has ever been in these flats..."


I didn't listen any further. I interrupted Mum and vehemently denied saying any such thing. I remonstrated with her for making up yet another conversation overnight and then spreading untruths. I was mortified to hear that she'd said that to the Warden. Of course, I knew it wasn't her fault, really, and that her brain had scrambled the message from our conversation the day before, but I lost my temper. Having silenced her, I immediately rang the Warden to defend myself and reassure him that I'd said nothing of the sort.

Having slept on it, I must admit that the strength of my reaction came in part from my disappointment that Mum wasn't calling me to say "Happy Birthday" to me yesterday.