Every Day is Mother’s Day
- Posted by admin
- On 4th March 2016
- 0 Comments
- #AlzheimersShow, #alzshow, Admiral Nurses, alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Society, break, calm, caring, confusion, Daily Care, dementia, Dementia UK, diagnosed, help, living with, mum, practical, together, vascular dementia
Mother’s Day is not just an annual date in the diary when your mum has dementia. Christina Macdonald explains why
I used to joke that every day is Mother’s Day when your mum has dementia, but in truth it wasn’t intended to be funny. When you care for a parent with dementia, it’s not just about showing them gratitude once a year. You care for them night and day, 365 days per year. You’re ready to help them with any task, whether it’s going to the toilet, accompanying them to the shops or taking them to the GP. When you’re not with them, you feel like you’re on call. You sit by the phone, poised for it to ring, waiting for something unexpected to occur that needs your immediate attention.
These days, things are different for me. Now that my mum lives in a nursing home, I’m not the person who has to provide that ongoing care any longer. But it’s important to make the point that those who care for a parent with dementia do so much for them every single day. So much in fact that the fuss around Mother’s Day seems completely over the top.
A person with dementia won’t necessarily benefit from a card, a box of chocolates or a meal in a fancy restaurant. When you care for them consistently, you don’t need to do those things to prove that you love them. You get to show that you love them every day when you provide the care, company and support they so desperately need and would be lost without. And that care means so much.
My mother, who has vascular dementia, used to say that Mother’s Day was pure commercial nonsense. ‘I don’t need a card to prove that you love me,’ she would say. In reality, I knew she appreciated the gesture of a card and I’m sure that if she hadn’t received at least a small bunch of flowers she would have been secretly upset.
If I’m honest, I envy those who get to spend an enjoyable, sociable day with their mum on Mother’s Day. Those who sit in restaurants enjoying quality time with their mum don’t know how lucky they are in my view. My mum won’t know that it’s Mother’s Day, so the card and present I will give her won’t register, though she’ll appreciate the chocolates! But it won’t be a special day. In truth, there are very few special days when you care for a person with dementia. You have to try and enjoy your time together and create a positive and safe environment for them. You may create new memories, but those memories will only be recalled by you. They will be lost to the person with dementia.
Advice and support
When you care for a parent with dementia, you have to deal with the fact that you’ve lost the person you used to depend on. In our earlier days, mum was the person I turned to for advice and support. She was the person I would call when I got good news. She was the person I called when I got a promotion at work. She was the person I called when I decided to get married.
Caring for anyone with dementia is extremely challenging, regardless of the nature of their relationship to you. But when it’s a parent you respect, you miss being able to share your highs and lows. I can’t tell mum about anything that’s going on in my life. I can’t share good news, or the bad. When I recently had my first book published, I knew mum probably wouldn’t understand what had happened, but I decided to take a copy of it with me during one of my visits. I showed her the front cover with my name on. Her face lit up and I wondered if I had her back for one lucid moment. Maybe she would understand what I was showing her, because she was always so proud of my writing. She grinned at me. Then she pointed at a sign on a filing cabinet in the corner of the room. ‘Look,’ she gushed excitedly. ‘That sign says: “Do not slam”.’
The best thing I can do is to remind myself how proud mum would have been. I also feel sad for her that she’s missing out on so many things. She can’t absorb new information. So we spend most of our time watching TV, or we read together. That said the visits still make a difference. At the end of each visit, she seems more relaxed. I’m not convinced she remembers them, but if I can make a difference to her mood then it’s the least I can do.
This Mother’s Day, I’ll just be happy if mum seems happy. She deserves so much more, but I’m lucky she’s still here, even if it’s just in body rather than in spirit.