Saturday 1 June 2013

Living with dementia - my lovely Mum

This is Jean, my lovely Mum, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in late 2011.

I'd like to introduce my lovely Mum Jean - she's 86, and has probably been living with dementia for at least three years. She'd had a mild stroke, some years before, and this was very likely the first indicator, that dementia was just around the corner.

Though Mum was diagnosed with vascular dementia in late 2011, there had already been many signs that she was developing some form of dementia, before the diagnosis.

She would have problems with the cooker or washing machine, declaring that she'd never used "one like this before". In her mind, that was probably quite true.

When supermarket shopping with her, she would linger at various points, pick something up and place it in the trolley - whether she needed it or not. More often than not, the item was not needed, and never eaten or used. I'd try to persuade her that she didn't need it, but that would be met with the usual irate response, "it's my money, I'll buy what I want!" or "you never let me buy anything I want."

As time progressed, her walking became slower and more laboured, and she started to develop the early signs of the dementia shuffle. By the end of October 2012, she had all but lost the ability to walk. She was now living with me, and I was her carer.

Though her dementia has seriously affected her mobility, she still retains remarkably good communication skills. Only this morning, she surprised both me and her agency carer, by using the word "concientious" during one of our conversations. She is however, unable to keep track of the conversation, and will often continue talking about a previous subject.

Whilst she can eat and drink without any chewing or swallowing issues, she has difficulty using utensils, and for the most part now only uses a spoon. Drinks are provided in sip cups, in order to minimise spillages.

The concept of time has been lost, but through a set daily routine, she still manages to sleep well at night. I've also used a Digital Photo Frame to create a Day Clock for her, to provide a visual prompt, and help her to at least understand which day it is and which part of the day it is (there's a link top right to my blog about this).

Mum has continence issues, and needs to be transferred to the commode when required, or have pads changed when needed. To shower, she needs to be transferred to a wheeled shower chair. As her son, such duties were initially difficult to accept - now, I'm used to them, and don't give them a second thought.

Throughout all of this, Mum has retained her wicked sense of humour, and enjoys watching older, 70s and 80s, comedies on the TV. Occasionally she gets confused, treating people on TV as if they're in the room with her. She will often get angry with them, and shout at them. If she gets too agitated, I change whatever she's watching, usually to something like an Andre Rieu concert, on DVD, which she loves, and calms her down, almost instantly.

She has her collection of cuddly toys, including two small baby dolls. She talks to them all, and tells them that "Mummy loves you". She gets upset if she doesn't know where some of them are, especially the baby dolls.

Mum and Dad at their wedding in 1955 (Dad passed away in 1994)

Like many living with dementia, she frequently wants to "go home", and visit her Mum. This was difficult for me to handle when it first happened. Now, I play along with it, tell her I'll phone her Mum to find out if she's in, in order to settle her, eventually she forgets all about it, and carries on as before.

This is just a small insight into my Mum's continuing journey with dementia, hopefully it will help others understand a little more about the condition so many now find themselves living with.


  1. It's a tough caregiving job, to be with a family member with dementia. Good for you for sharing the information.

    1. Thank you Jennifer, I try to do what I can to help others in similar circumstances. The more who know about dementia and its effects is good for us all.