By Lauren de Vere.
The very difficult combination of parents and Alzheimer’s
Today is a sad day for me. Today the winks and the waves of Alzheimer’s disease showing themselves in my mother’s body and mind became a tsunami of the real horror of her affliction. Today my siblings and I got written word from our mother’s carer of exactly what life is now like on a daily basis. Of course, we’ve seen hints of the symptoms from visiting her, from talking to her on the phone, and from spending time with her. However, none of us could know the nuances of how her day-to-day living has been impacted by her having Alzheimer’s.
We are not the ones who are caring for her 24/7 so I’m not berating anyone here – it’s just the shock of reading how your own mother is losing her dignity, how simple tasks have become a challenge and how our parent is morphing into a dependent child.
All relationships can change over time, and I would even submit that any healthy one worth its weight will be wholesomely organic, but somehow the one with your own parents is the one that you want to stay the same. Somewhere deep in my soul, I have a yearning for my parents to always be there, to be the ones I can rely on if I needed them, and with that same type of reliance I had as a dependent child.
They say that nothing properly prepares you for becoming a parent, but right at this moment what seems to ring even truer is that nothing prepares you for being the child of an ageing parent. I am witnessing my mother’s physical and mental deterioration and I don’t know where to turn. I want to save her from all of this nightmare, just like a parent would comfort a child when they wake up in the middle of the night, crying because the monsters have been after them in their scary dreams.
Where in the world is the equivalent of antenatal classes, but for helping you prepare for that time when your ageing parent is fast becoming a child? It seems kind of topsy-turvy that where both the UK population is surviving longer due to advances in medical science and technology and dementia is becoming more and more common, relatives seem to have to make it up as they go along.
We have oodles of information on how parents can deal with babies for their optimal development, but far less information on how to deal with older people for their optimal quality of life during their inevitable decline. Maybe all this is a sad reflection on our societal values – worship all things shiny and new and perfectly formed, dispense with all things old and falling apart. We are also fast losing the direct experience of living within an extended family where the elders are taken care of by the youngsters within the same household, so that the know how of dealing with the elderly in the most compassionate ways can no longer be passed on osmotically.
What I have done thus far, apart from cry over the sadness of the situation, is to absorb my research on the effects of Alzheimer’s (The Alzheimer’s Society is an excellent source of information and guidance), attend a course on how to best help and support someone with Alzheimer’s and talk to as many friends and family – always good to have some kind of coping strategy, I feel.
And in the meantime, I endeavour to be as kind a parent to my floundering child mother as I know how.
This post was originally published on laurendevere.com
You may also find these articles helpful, Caring for Elderly Parents and A Different Perspective on Care Options in Old Age.
Lauren de Vere was born in the era of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, mods & rockers and flower power. Maybe her beginnings in the midst of that cultural backdrop influenced the eclectic nature of her education and careers, and maybe it’s just who she is. Either way, she has had a broad experience of life. Her approach to life is that happiness comes from wrapping work snugly and compatibly around her personal life and not the other way round. This has resulted in work coming from different walks of life. She has been a manager and auditor in the business world, a partner in a firm of solicitors in the legal world, and an actress and writer in the arts world. Her bigger vision is to make things better by doing things differently, if she can. She has done volunteer work in South Africa for a lion rehabilitation programme to help prevent their extinction, and has been a carer for a quadriplegic young woman. She also writes a blog as a forum for discussing relationship issues; we all get in a pickle sometimes!