personal, Wellbeing
Comments 91

Two rocks lie heavy in my heart; the first is Mum

Wellbeing over 50 often involves caring for elderly parents

Catching the bus to the Mall July 2017 (the hats were unplanned) #motheranddaughter #ageing #dementia #over50

Why was I getting an email from a policewoman in England; is this the latest scam? But I recognised her station’s address, so clicked it open with dread. It was about Mum.

“We’ve had a couple of calls from members of the public concerned about her welfare as she appeared very confused. I attended her home address & agree that her dementia is getting worse.”

I wrote last year about Mum’s diagnosis in the post ‘She’s slipping through my fingers and there’s nothing I can do’; it’s been a waiting game since then.

You see, as a child, Mum spent two years in a sanatorium, recovering from Tuberculosis, and has had a dread of hospitals and ‘group homes’ ever since. Dark things happened there, and she is forever scarred. So for the last ten years, when it would have been a smart, forward-thinking plan to move to a retirement village, and enjoy all the facilities and interactions available, she refused. Wouldn’t have a bar of it. Last year when I was in England visiting her, she constantly reminded me that she didn’t ever want to be put in to a home…

Taking Mum for a walk by the sea for wellbeing over 50 and over 80

Still enjoying a daily walk #over80 #ageing #wellbeing #dementia #motheranddaughter

Thus we organised a Social Care Assessment, and she’s been having twice-daily visits from a community nurse to ensure she’s eating a hot lunch and dinner (she can’t use the stove any more). It’s a terribly unsatisfactory situation in terms of her nutrition, or social isolation, but what can we do? I had meeting after meeting with her doctor, and my cousin and I both made phone call after phone call to various services, but as long as she can articulate that she wants to stay at home, and can be safely supported to do so, that’s what’s considered best for her.

And I agree.

But I call her every 3 or 4 days from here in Australia, and her stability has certainly declined, which distresses me every time. She laughs it off, and remains cheerful. Sometimes she has a ‘good day’, where we talk and laugh for 30 minutes, and I can even tempt her into a political discussion; other times she says she’s tired, and swats away my bids for connection as she loses every other word it seems.

They are bad days indeed.

I cannot fathom what it must feel like for her: a very intelligent, arts-and-culture loving woman, who was the town’s head librarian for years. It reduces me to tears.

We weren’t that close once I hit my teenage years, as I was a determined rebel, and took my independence with a vengeance. Now, I just want to look after her, and feed her properly, making sure she drinks heaps of water, and gets to watch all the old B & W musicals she loves.

The connection of family provides love for life #over50blogger

Mum and I on the ferry in New York #ageing #motheranddaughter #wellbeing #dementia #over50

But I can’t. My life is simply in a distant country, with my son ’17’. Tomorrow, Mum’s younger sister and niece are going to visit her, to assess her situation for themselves, and I’m sick to my stomach with worry and fear. My younger brother, who also lives outside the UK, but only a couple of hours away by plane, is hoping to visit in April- but we all know if Mum has to be moved, and pack the entirety of her life into boxes, it’s me who will need to do it.

I’m sorry this isn’t a more cheery blog post; I’ve been struggling a bit since coming back from Tasmania, and this is one of the reasons.

In gratitude for all the care and kindness I’m surrounded by, both in real life and online, G xO 

91 Comments

  1. Coyote from Orion says

    I hope she is able to feel comfortable somewhere. I know what those old style places we were committed to when young are like.
    A lot more silent than the fashionable treatment for violent and/or sexually demanding footballers go to when they need a break.

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      • Coyote from Orion says

        Good on the English police for doing the human thing. They can be good like that. A lot of aggression down here in Melbourne today. People are mad.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I was so impressed with the email; she went in for coffee with Mum, and said she’s going to keep checking on her. That’s why Mum lives in a small country town: everyone knows her.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Coyote from Orion says

            I lived in a small town in Oxfordshire. They all knew me. I had to do my drinking everywhere but there…. after the first week. They all whispered… “the Australian…” as I walked past.
            Good beer over there.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Coyote from Orion says

            I was constantly embarrassed… at least everyone told me I was. In Burford I vomited on an old as we drove through. It was terrible. Probably for her too.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Coyote from Orion says

            I rolled from pub to pub. My mate was worse than me I kept telling myself. He kept whingeing about it

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah G, such tough stuff. We work hard, we hope, we try to honor wishes, and sometimes it does not go as we wish it would. Sending best wishes for the best possible outcome for all concerned. Ouch!

    Love the pic on the ferry!

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    • Thank you Steph; yes, it’s such a challenge to try to honour her wishes, yet also juggle reality, and the fact that my life is here in Australia with my son and his future… so complicated.

      I love that photo too : )

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    • Thank you Walt; her Mum went the same way, at exactly the same age, and lived to be 92, but I’d already emigrated to Oz, so saw none of it… I can’t really grasp the reality of it…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My mum was 68 when she died last year. I think you are lucky to still have your mum, she looks really sweet. She needs you, I understand your struggles but she needs you, cheers

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    • I’m sorry you lost your Mum so young, that must be awful. Yes, my Mum needs all of us, and she needs good care, some of which I certainly can’t provide I’m sorry to say. It’s a very challenging situation for the whole family

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so sorry G, I can truly empathize with you, I had very similar feelings with my Mum when I was in America. I was fortunate that my Sister lives with her so I cannot imagine the worry you must feel having her living on her own. I am glad she does have some community supports around her.
    Thinking of you and your Mum, hope you get some positive results from the assessment.
    Sending some awesome juju back to you xoxo Jad

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow ! this situation is always hard. Even when they have previously accepted that residential care of some kind may be the least bad option, the failing elderly are still often reluctant to move away from the familiarity of their own home. All the best for moving through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you- wise words indeed- ‘the least bad option’. That’s what we need to aim for, and Mum’s reluctance is so understandable yet makes it all so much harder : ( Thank you for your good wishes xO

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hopefully it’s a huge comfort for you knowing she has a community around her who know and care for her. She’s not alone. And despite the geographical distance, you are only at the other end of a telephone, instant real-time connection. Echoing everyone above’s best wishes for the best way forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do wish you well with this as it’s so hard. I went through this 20 years ago with my mother who didn’t have dementia but was just very frail and no longer able to care for herself. She died one week after she moved into care, that does happen. I couldn’t have been more aware, btw, as I’d worked in caring both practically and on national projects, but did any of that help, not a lot, actually.

    There are good places in the UK, they just have to be found, but they are expensive, as perhaps they should be. On a wider level I think we don’t look at our frail old age, as we like to see ageing as ‘ageing healthily and well’, but there comes a time when we do need more help. And I passionately believe that we should look that square in the face and accept that. Also here in the UK we never look or debate how that ‘help’ is to be funded and dealt with as the numbers of the very frail and old increase. It’s always a crisis. That has to stop.

    But for you, how to cope with this? It’s very hard as circumstances and the situation will move relentlessly on. I wish you well, and remember there are good places and people who will care for your mother. Good luck with this x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Penny for taking the time to write such a long and thorough comment; I really appreciate it. I did begin to look into care homes for Mum, with a nice view of the sea, but they were so expensive that neither she nor I could afford them. With such a huge ageing population, it seems to me an imperative that we put more funding and resources into our elderly, and into our own upcoming older years, as you so rightly point out.

      I already have a deal with my same-aged cousin here: if either of us starts ‘losing our marbles’, the other one is going to make the call for residential care; I wish I’d pushed Mum into making a move earlier, but she is very stubborn (as am I). Such a tricky situation, and I’m lucky I can access family support, and services too, plus do online research etc. I am not looking forward to the next chapter though. Thank you once again for sharing your wisdoms, G : )

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  8. My heart goes out of you. The decision you made with your mom and Heath care professionals to have her remain at home was the right decision for that time. What needs to be done will be the right decision for now. Please do not punish yourself with “should haves” or “could haves”. I love the pictures of you two together. Not everyone are praying people but it’s what I do and I’ll will say some for you. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lorie, that’s a really lovely comment, and a good reminder: yes, we did do the right thing letting her stay where she wanted to. Now a fresh approach seems to be needed, and prayers and well wishes are welcome in any form, thank you kindly, G

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  9. thetotalfemme says

    So sorry, sweetie, and so sorry you’re so far away! I am in the same boat with my dad, although I am lucky that he is here in town. Email me any time if you want to talk! thetotalfemme@gmail.com In middle-aged femme solidarity, xottf

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this comment and offer! You are fantastically supportive, and I hope your journey with your Dad isn’t too hard. To be honest, I think I’m still in shock/denial, so don’t really know what to do… but if I need to email for advice and solidarity, I certainly will. Blessings, G xO

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  10. I’m so sorry! I can’t imagine how hard it is to be that far away from your mother at this time of her life, but you really don’t seem to have a choice. Sending good thoughts your way….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m sorry to hear this G. I hope that everything will be ok with your mum. I can’t imagine having to go through that, but you are strong and have loved ones to support you and give you the strength and courage to find a solution, if a solution needs to be found! xoxo ❤

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  12. Your post brought tears to my eyes G! I feel for you and those pictures were just beautiful. As we get older these are the problems common to us all, though not in every detail or circumstance of course. Living half way across the world makes it all very difficult. My grandma is 92 and she only recently agreed to go into a (hugely expensive) aged care home. She is one of only a very few residents there who does not have dementia! It is quite lonely for her but at least she has a lot of family and many of us visit regularly. I hear what you’re saying about your mum’s past scars, but my grandma got to the point, after a broken hip, several falls and a minor heart attack, that she simply could not stay in her own home any longer. I hope you can find a solution soon and I send you my empathy and positive energy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story of your grandma’s experience! Sorry to make you teary, but that’s empathy for ya : ) I’m waiting to Skype this week with my cousin who visited her, so we can talk about a bit of a plan- I’ll update as soon as I know more- the distance is a huge challenge, and yet I don’t regret emigrating here of course… I so appreciate your positive thoughts, bless you xx

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Nursing homes are not all equal. The trick is to find one that suits her. We have a client that loved it so much she left her husband at home and went to live in one .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh Dewy, that’s a wonderful comment, thank you! : )

      I do reckon Mum would enjoy the social aspects so much; she’s just not very good at making changes herself, which means we have to do it for her, taking away her sense of independence and control… plus none of us can afford an expensive one : (

      Liked by 1 person

  14. S_MW says

    Dearest Gabrielle, I’ve only just read this and my heart’s sore for you. I can only imagine how lost you must feel. My brother’s been in Oz for 20+ years and I know that the distance can be such a hard thing to bear, but when your life is there….what can you do.

    I’m thinking of you lots. xxx ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks honey- I’ve made a wonderful life here it’s true- I just wish I could tow Australia closer to England sometimes : ( Mum only came out once, and found it too hot and boisterous, so bringing her here is just not an option, plus no one else in the UK family could visit her of course- it’s such a conundrum! : (

      Thank you for your loving thoughts xx

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  15. My thoughts are with you on this G. It’s such a tough situation and so hard being so far away. Though it’s pretty tough even if you are living much closer. There is just no way to make it easier when it comes to the emotional impact of watching your mum deteriorate like this, losing the mother you knew all your life. It’s a hard, hard place.
    We all know the world changes, nothing remains the same and that goes for our personal circumstances much as anything else. But being at the point of such a dramatic and frankly, devasting change is the hardest part of being a human being. It takes everything we have just to keep going through it. And that is where you mum comes in. She is there, part of you. Part of the strength you need to draw on now.
    I hope you can surround yourself with the support you’ll need to step into this difficult change which, looking back, you have already begun to navigate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness your comments are good Jean: so spot on. I’ve been feeling so sad and weepy about the passing of Time in general, and grieving losing Mum’s character and presence. We didn’t have an easy relationship as I was growing up, and it’s cruelly ironic that we got on so much better in the last few years, and that I feel such an urge to take care of her now, even while she’s slipping away very slowly… such an intense experience. I do have good support, but I need to make sure I’m as prepared as possible for the ongoing challenges. Thank you deeply for your care and insight, G xO

      Liked by 2 people

  16. My heart goes out to you, G. I’m dealing with a somewhat similar situation, but *only* from a 3000 km distance. It’s really hard to know what to do…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so hard isn’t it? Yet no matter how sad or angry I feel, the reality is that it’s just Life, unfolding as it will, and we simply have to step up and deal, no matter how bad we feel. I hope you have family support? And have you accessed local services? If I can help in any way with advice or a shared experience, please comment any time. Best of luck to you and yours, G

      Liked by 1 person

  17. so sorry to hear this. It’s very difficult. About to embark on a similar-ish journey to see my father-in-law in Perth …

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  18. -hugs- My Dad had mild dementia too, so I know. You can only do your best, and sometimes that may mean simply keeping them happy for as long as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. I’d rather she was pottering around town and flat for as long as she can, even if it means the occasional concerned call from a neighbour; she loves walking, and I don’t want to take her sense of freedom away from her for as long as possible. Thank you x

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  19. I’m sorry you have to go through this. I often think of my own mother, living in another country alone. Fortunately my brother is there and he is caring so if she needs, I think I can count on him. I would like to say I’m sure but we never know.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m new to your blog, but wish you the best outcome for your Mum. One of the hardest things with dementia is knowing the exact moment that you need to be the parent instead of her. It is so hard to watch the person you saw as independent and your protector, slip away from you into a memoryless prison of childhood memories only.

    While decisions will be hard, try to go easy on yourself. Do your best, but don’t pile guilt onto yourself for being too far away, or not having the money to give her expensive care. You will find the right answers. Just allow time to heal your shock and to be open to what your relatives suggest. Allow yourself the luxury of healing your heart as you take each day one at a time. There are no bad decisions or regrets when dementia strikes… It simply is.

    If I can offer my best piece of advice on this… And please don’t take this the wrong way.
    If you haven’t seen your Mum for a few years, plan a trip to see her before she worsens (providing it is affordable). It will so much harder to see her 5 years on… She will not appreciate the sacrifice you make to see her then. I can tell you that from experience.
    The Mum you know will be lost to you all too soon.

    Best wishes and stay strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks so much Colette for commenting and sharing your experience. I’ve actually seen Mum every year, and will be going again in a couple of months; she’s already made a big shift from parent to child to be honest. I did write last year about feeling she was slipping through my fingers:

      https://boneandsilver.com/2017/10/12/shes-slipping-through-my-fingers-and-theres-nothing-i-can-do/

      Your suggestions are very practical, and I so value them; this is a very uncomfortable journey to be on, yet the support and advice on WordPress makes it so much easier; thank you for joining in and sharing your wisdoms. Blessings, G xO

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      • Hi G,
        Ah, I see that you have been facing this for some time now. Apologies if it sounded like I’m ‘teaching you to suck eggs.’

        I expect that you have power of attorney for your Mum (hopefully with your brother, in case anything happens to you). It sounds like it is time to invoke it with the court of protection so that you can take care of your Mum’s financial state from afar. This is so helpful when you are arranging for the DWP and social services to fund (or partially fund) a care home, which sounds like it might be coming sooner rather than later.

        I do wish you the best. It is so hard to watch a parent slip away into the fog of dementia. I know I felt a huge cloud lift when my husbands Mum died at age 94 after 10 years of living in a head that told her she was 8 years old.

        Look after you first… And your son… His future is more important than worrying about a decline in your Mum that you cannot stop. Be well!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks Colette- no apology needed- I am so thankful for your wise words and experience. Yes, I have the Power of Attorney sorted, although need to activate it when I’m in England. And yes, if faced with the terrible choice of son or mother, I would without hesitation choose my son’s future… Bless you for your honest concerns and advice, G xO

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  21. Just seen your blog. Really feel for you in this situation. I worry about my mum a lot as she’s 90 and many miles away but at least in this country and no obvious dementia yet. I think you’re right to help her stay independent as long as she can. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Beth, for commenting, and sharing your concerns as well. Wow, 90 is a great age! I hope you make the effort to visit her as often as you can? I wish mine was closer; it’s a ridiculously long distance… : /
      Many thanks, G

      Liked by 1 person

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