1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime.
My Mum, Ivy, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 6 years ago. I remember on her 80th birthday thinking that things weren’t quite right with her & I made a mental note to arrange to see the Doctor. She had always been a smart, driven lady, very focused on her health both physical & mental. She was quite possibly the longest standing Weight Watcher in the world, joining in 1972 & still weighing everything & counting points right up until the disease stopped her! She always had a range of vitamins & supplements stacked up on the kitchen counter & would watch Countdown religiously ‘to keep her brain active’!
But that day I just knew something was starting. My Nana had Alzheimer’s so Mum & I were always conscious of the signs. I’m pretty sure Mum spotted it before I did but she was crafty when it came to hiding things.
It takes time to diagnose dementia, you start with a memory test with your GP & this is repeated 6 months later. This is why it’s so important to spot signs early. Mum was fortunately diagnosed early on & started her medication which cannot reverse things but it can slow them down.
1 in 14 people over 65 have dementia in the UK
Things progressed slowly, she would misplace things, forget words, worry but not know what about. Eventually she forgot how to use the TV, how to make a cup of tea, how to cook. Leaving her was a huge worry, she was distressed when I would say goodbye & since I lived in Preston & she was in Manchester I just couldn’t be there every day. We arranged home care visits which helped for a while but Mum was very private & didn’t like people coming into the house. She was a very proud lady; seeing her frightened, confused & anxious broke my heart.
After a nasty UTI landed her in hospital for 2 weeks, the social worker decided she could not go home as it wasn’t in her best interests. To be honest, I was relieved that the decision to move her into residential care had been taken out of my hands. I’ll never forget my Mum’s guilt at having to put my Nana into care, she never forgave herself. Finding a suitable home is so hard, all I knew was I wanted to move her close to me so I could see her all the time. There is little support or guidance when finding a home but I feel I struck gold when I found Belmont Residential Care Home in Longridge. Mum has been there for 4 years now & is just 20 minutes away from me so I am blessed to see her every day.
Over the last 4 years we have made many new friends amongst the carers & the residents, & sadly seen many pass away. Together, Mum & I have joined in events, supported fundraisers, sang & danced & I have hugged Mum every day & told her I love her.
Today she is bed-bound, 5 stone wet through & unable to feed herself. She would be (& possibly is?) mortified to see what she has become & that just kills me so I try not to dwell on it. I try to visit at meal times so I can feed her, it’s the least I can do since she taught me how to feed myself, walk, talk etc. Most of the time she has her eyes closed but I know she’s listening. I think she knows it’s me & probably thinks oh no, not you again!! Last week she opened her eyes & laughed, it was the best day ever! I cannot explain the joy I had getting that glimpse of Mum that has been gone for so long.
850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK
It’s hard writing this. Although I see Mum daily I have my strong head on & take it in my stride.But writing this makes me want to cry because it reminds me of what I have lost & how desperately I miss my Mum. I used to talk to her every day, tell her my problems (she always made me see sense), or just sit & have a brew. I’m glad she is no longer in the scared & anxious phase, but I so miss hearing her voice & sharing laughs. The worst thing is I don’t know how long this will go on & that’s why I see every day – it’s one more day I get to hold her hand & tell her I love her.
This is Alzheimer’s. It is cruel, relentless & unforgiving. It ruins not only the lives of the sufferers but also those who love them. This is why I support the Alzheimer’s Society which funds cutting-edge research into the cause, care, cure and prevention of dementia. This research is not only taking us closer to more new treatments than ever before but is also taking vital steps towards better care for people living with the condition today and their friends and family.