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Mum, Alzheimer’s & Me

Written by Jane Yendall

It was such an earth shattering experience. This wonderful, kind, gentle woman; my strong hard working mother was suddenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I’d never heard the word before OR even begun to start to understand what this word Alzheimer’s meant or what it involved.

As a busy mum with two children 12 years and 9 years, working full time, I had failed to identify my parents as ‘aging’. I had always looked upon them as MY anchor. MY rock to keep me and my children secure and safe. I had relied on them as MY child minder; MY support. I was divorced with all the responsibility that ‘status’ threw at me. 

Then it started with, ‘I’ve lost my purse’ or ‘can you help me find the scissors ? Innocent enough every day comments but which grew in regularity. Every one has lapses of  memory don’t they? But then came the chicken cooking in the oven with the plastic wrapping still on? Or, a  time when Mother said she “had made a trifle, but some one must have stolen it?”

The worse was around this corner, such as when I discovered she had actually placed her electric kettle on her open coal fire to ‘boil the kettle’? It had melted in the coal grate. How dangerous this was?

Mother was going back in time re-living her years back in the 1930’s. She no longer even recognised her own house she had lived in for 43 years. The most unbearable sadness and sense of my loss was when I saw also she failed to recognise her own husband (my Dad) who she had been married to for 45 years. We didn’t know where to place Mother to make her calm, content, free from fear or feel safe.

With the help of our doctor’s practice initially and then referred to NHS hospital ward for assessments, the staff helped so much and guided me through the black tunnel I was in, to eventually see the light of day again. 

From experience in being with my mother I soon learned how to calm, reassure and most importantly distract her from her most distressing even violent outbursts and episodes. It was exhausting.

Alzheimer’s is cruel in that the victim does often remember their actions they do or they know they are confused. One moment totally lucid the next moment non compos mentis.

I found great help in finding the right care home for my mother. She needed three care homes during the stages of this progressive disease.  It was not physically possible for me to support her with the 24 /7 care she required. 

For anyone experiencing the trauma of a loved one having an Alzheimer’s diagnosis I can reassure them, there are agencies who are fully experienced who can support you through this dreadful experience. There are many people to talk to who are going through the same emotional and physical strain to keep their loved ones safe. All a carer can do is to keep positive and assured and satisfied that what support you obtain, supply or achieve, that you are doing your very best for your loved one, in such dreadfully sad circumstances.

About the author

Jane Yendall