Today was a ‘taster’ day or rather an assessment of suitability for accessing adult day care for dementia Mum.
Providing Mum with enough mental stimulation is perhaps where I worry I can’t quite match up. We were never super close. She was always a glass half empty person. She never really had hobbies and the personal interests she did have now don’t appeal.
It’s hard to get Mum interested in anything much aside from looking at the birds in the garden. The rest of the time she bemoans the sheer pointlessness of her existence. But then that’s how she always was. Amazingly dementia occasionally gives her a child-like sense of wonder I’ve never seen before. But things turn on a sixpence (to quote a pre-decimal currency saying).
The fibre optic novelty light that held her transfixed can suddenly become something that’s “not up to much”. I can relate to these change of moods as they mirror the black cloud that can so suddenly descend on those of us who cope with depression. Out of nowhere a sense of pointlessness.
As is the case with today’s flurry of mental stimulation. All laughs when I picked her up after her few hours sampling day care. Now she says “I’ll pay for this” and it was all too much. Good experiences often get re-experienced through rain tinted glasses. Pick-me-up experiences become pointless, distressing, nightmarish. Reality and the unconscious, the dream world and the imagined are all valid. You can’t tell a dementia sufferer that something is in their imagination because imagination is as real as the supposed ‘real’.
Anyway the specialist day care centre is happy to have her one day a week. Maybe it’s more about giving me a break than giving Mum a more stimulating environment.
What do I want to do with this time off? Sleep. Just sleep.
In February my 89 year old Dad died suddenly after a few days of illness. He went into hospital on a Sunday. By Monday morning he was diagnosed with leukemia. By midday he had died of a bleed to the brain. After a lifetime of good health it was characteristic that he took a ‘no faffing’ approach to leaving us.
He was the main carer for his wife, my Mum who has dementia. They both always resisted our help though it was becoming evident that standards were slipping and their home was getting grubby. Dad also wasn’t a natural carer despite half a lifetime teaching first aid (you know how it goes. Up there with hairdressers with appalling hair, unhealthy doctors and teachers unwilling to learn new skills).
So it was a bit of a shock as to how much was not being done for
Mum. I can’t blame Dad. He was 89. He learned to cook, to a fashion, at age 85 but on the whole he left Mum alone for hours and didn’t really check her state of cleanliness. Nobody is perfect. We all do the best we can. In addition I may not have realised quite how much Mum had declined in recent months.
So, since February my old non-life was suspended and I became her carer. It’s been a steep learning curve. We were left a mess financially. We have no lasting power of attorney. We haven’t even started processing Dad’s will (and despite decades telling us that all details were in his wardrobe and who the solicitor was, both turned out to not be up to date information).
Add to this a very violent disagreement with my sibling over caring for Mum and as many carers have found, the complete evaporation of family and partner support in caring for an aged parent with care needs. Add my own battles with mental health issues and worries that despite doing better than I would have imagine, it is very early days and I could be quacking like a duck by Christmas.
It’s a reversal of roles. I am the sudden responsible adult whist the former responsible adult is like a confused, frightened child who has no idea who I am or my relationship to her. Tears, tantrums, humour, pathos and a broken, underfunded care system.
It’s all been like an ongoing soap opera. As life often is.
And it’s ongoing.
So forgive me if I think outloud here in future.