Friday 26 September 2008

if the shoe fits

I'm on the phone with Mum:

"These slippers I'm wearing are too big, they're slipping off."

She's told me this a few times now. Last time I visited I checked and there was no looseness as far as I could tell, but I made a play of unfastening the velcro and pulling the fold-over tighter, and then Mum was content for another half hour until we went through the same process.

There's little point in me telling Mum that we had to buy them big because her feet were very swollen at the time and may well be again ("Really?" she'll ask, professing ignorance), or even that the velcro can be adjusted ("Well, I didn't know that!"), but I usually do go ahead and explain anyway.

This time she started relaying what I was saying to a member of staff. It went something like this:

"You can adjust them to make them tighter, if you want, Mum."
"Really? Oh... He's telling me that they fit"
"We had to buy them that size because your feet were so swollen a few months ago."
"I don't remember that."
"So... all you have to do is unfasten them and then pull the fastener over a bit further to make the slipper tighter."
"He's telling me that this is a company that takes pride in being one-size fits all and that these are special shoes that can fit anybody..."

I'm almost tempted to speak any old rubbish into the phone if she's going to make it all up anyway.

Friday 19 September 2008

the right to die

I noticed this story on the BBC News website today: once again someone has suggested that those with Dementia should be allowed to end their lives if they feel they are ‘a burden’ to others.

This brings back memories.

When my Father died nine years ago, I went home to help Mum with the funeral and ended up staying for a month. I had to go through all their papers as part of my role as Executor. Hidden away in one part of the study I found a stack of magazines from the Euthanasia Society. It turned out that these were Mum’s. She tried to tell me her feelings on the matter, which I suspected were somewhat parroted. Having just lost Dad, my sympathy with these ideas was not great. I rather angrily threw the magazines away with the junk.

Over the intervening years, Mum’s concern shifted from wanting to end her life at a time of her choosing to being terrified that she might be cremated alive. “When I die I want you to make sure that I’m dead,” she would anxiously tell me and I would picture myself hesitating over her prone body with a hammer. She even asked her Solicitor if she could put a stipulation about it in her Will, but we pointed out to her that by the time the Will was read it would most likely be too late. We talked about a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order, something I'd seen countless times whilst watching 'ER', but nothing was ever drawn up.

Now that Mum has Dementia, if anything I feel more resolute on this issue.

You see, I know that Mum can be so very easily influenced to believe strongly about just about anything. She is incredibly dependent, not just physically but mentally; so much so that I need to be extremely cautious what I say around her. Her ‘Self’ is so wispy and undefined these days that any strong statement from me could distort her into someone unrecognizable. I’m not going to be using words like ‘burden’ around Mum, ever.

And just because Mum is losing her wits, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t capable of enjoying the attention and stimulation she’s getting at the Home. She’s happier now than she’s been for a few years.

If Mum was sound of mind and suffering from something incurable that was only going to get worse and more painful then sure I would countenance her right to make an informed decision about the manner of her passing. But she lacks the ability to make such a choice now.

My reaction to this news story is based entirely on my experience of one individual with Dementia and I'm not claiming any authority on the subject. I haven't even read the originating article that prompted the news report. I just worry about less sympathetic carers influencing their relatives or clients for nefarious purposes. It's a gut reaction and I may revisit this subject another time.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

I will survive

Folks, can I point you to a new link in my side bar for the blog 'citygirltalks' ? 

I've linked specifically to one post because it's a history of her Mother's long illness all in one entry and it's all useful. There's some of it I know already and some I hope never to see personally. I find it very moving and I love the sentiment at the end: 

you will survive. "

Thanks, Citygirl.

(by the way, although I've linked to the one entry, there's plenty more to see in her blog)

Friday 5 September 2008

now and then: a visit

My Brother-in-Law and my Nieces were in the country last weekend (one of my Nieces is starting school in the UK). I picked up Mum and took her to see them. Here's a photo of Mum with my Neices (that's me hunched down behind the chair). We spent a lovely afternoon together eating, looking at photos and catching up.

On the day it seemed like business as usual, with me shepherding Mum through hurdles (physical and mental) as patiently as possible. In some ways I could see a deterioration in her: I had difficulties helping her up the steep stairs in the house whenever she wanted to use the toilet, and she told a story about giving away a toy dog 3 times while we were there and a further time on our drive back. But I just smiled and let it pass - Mum hasn't got so many stories these days so I should let her enjoy those she can still remember.

However, looking at this picture I am struck by how much happier and healthier Mum looks now. It sends me back to the following pictures I still have on my phone, taken last December when I decided that I needed to intervene in Mum's life.