Friday, 17 March 2017

When caring for a loved one comes to an end...

Four and a half years of caring for Mum, then? Emptiness!

It'll soon be two weeks since Mum passed on, and I'm still trying to get used to the idea that what I did for her, for the last four and a half years, is over.

Caring for a Mum with dementia, who was completely bed-bound, and unable to feed herself, was a full on, 24/7, responsibility. With care workers coming to help four times a day, and in the last three months, Community Nurses, once a day, my days were made up of a very precise, set routine.

My days were occupied making Mum meals and providing drinks, doing a local shop for essentials, and occasionally collecting her prescription drugs.

My days would usually start at around 8am, and often go on until the early hours of the following day, allowing me a small amount of time for sleep. If I awoke in the middle of the night, I'd go and check on Mum. That was my life.

Then, one night, it all came to an abrupt end. I knew it was coming, but I was unable to prepare myself for it. All of the community support provided during those four and a half years, stopped. The doorbell stopped ringing. The friendly faces of Mum's care workers were nowhere to be seen. It was a massive shock, made even worse by the loss of Mum.

None of this was helped by the fact that during the first few days I had to contact Mum's doctor, to arrange for his certificate, and liaise with the funeral directors over arrangements for cremation and a service to celebrate her life.

Once I had the doctor's certificate, I had to make an appointment to see the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, in order to officially register Mum's passing, and collect copies of the official death certificate.

None of these tasks took very long, thereby leaving me with what suddenly seemed like vast periods of time, with nothing to do. I was lost! In limbo!

I took to going for long walks, which helped. I enjoy walking and cycling, and will very soon be out and about on my bike. But, I've yet to decide what I'm now going to do with my life.

For most of my working life, I've been a Graphic Designer, but, as I'll be 60 next month, returning to that occupation is not really an option. Besides, I'm not ready to go back to work, any time soon.

I enjoy photography, so I might pursue that for a while. I've also considered doing some voluntary work, helping others who either care for those with dementia, or those living with dementia. I've plenty of experience on that score. But, I'm not ready for that yet either, and I'm not sure when I will be.

Mum's service and cremation takes place next week, so after that, and once everything else is sorted, perhaps then, I might be able to think about what the future holds for me. One thing I do know, it's going to take me quite some time.

I guess, on the up-side, I've got quite a lot of that now!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Grieving - Taking each day as it comes...

It's almost a week since Mum passed on, and whilst the pain is easing, it's still there. There are quite a few matters I will need to sort over the next few days, and some of them could trigger further grief - I'm slowly beginning to work out what some of those triggers may be, and can take action either to prepare for them, or just avoid them.

For the first few days, I turned everything off in the room she spent the last four and a half years of her life. Then I realised I'd turned it into a sad, dark, depressing little room, rather than the one that used to be filled with so much joy and happiness. Everything is back on now, and the feeling of happiness has returned. And, even though Mum is no longer there, I can still feel her presence, and see the things she loved.

Her room won't become an unchanged shrine to Mum, as some of the equipment needed to keep her comfortable, including her hospital style bed, will have to be returned. But, the colourful lights, the TV, and all those sort of items, will remain.

Mum "conducting" AndrĂ© Rieu

Mum's funeral has been arranged, and although she is to be cremated, the service to celebrate her life, will take place in the funeral director's own private chapel. The coffin will then be taken to the crematorium, for an unattended private committal, later. This will avoid the conveyor belt of proceedings at the crematorium, as there will be more time for the service, and to pay last respects, before adjourning to another room in the same building, for refreshments.

For friends and family unable to attend, the chapel provides a webcast, which can be viewed, wherever they are in the world, and still be part of the service.

The chapel where the service will be held

I've organised a single spray of flowers for the coffin, made up of white roses (for Yorkshire, where she was born), thistles (for Scotland, where her Dad was born), along with other white flowers and foliage. The coffin will also be draped in a Royal Stewart tartan Plaid (the Plaid being the piece worn over the shoulder, when wearing formal highland dress), along with a large family bible, upon which will be a further single white rose.

As a mark of respect for Mum's Scottish ancestry, I will be wearing a kilt, a short informal grey tweed kilt jacket and waistcoat (vest to our American friends), white shirt, black necktie, brogues, hose and flashes, and, of course, a day wear black leather sporran.

There will be two or three pieces of music, all of which I will be recordings made by André Rieu and his orchestra, as Mum very much enjoyed watching his concerts on DVD. (See pic of Mum "conducting" above). The tracks, though not yet finalised, are likely to be "Nearer My God to Thee" at the start, "Time to Say Goodbye" (possibly whilst images relating to Mum's life appear on the plasma screen), and "Adieu, Little Captain of my Heart" at the end. The first two are somewhat sombre, but the final track is much more uplifting, and jolly - just as Mum would have liked it.

This week involves somewhat more official tasks, which I will undertake as and when I feel able. I also hope to post more on this blog as time allows, in the hope that some of this helps others too.

Until next time, Ciao! for now.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The pain of losing a Mother

It's been two days since Mum passed away, and though things are easing a little, it's still very tough and very painful. Seeing her decline so dramatically over the past few weeks, was incredibly painful, especially when realising that the end was indeed close.

There are still many things to deal with;

Officialdom - regarding pensions, benefits etc.
Funeral arrangements
Doctor's certificate
Registering the death
Finances etc. etc.

I'm taking each day as it comes, and I'm only dealing with what I feel I can at the moment.

Although I don't have the support of any relatives nearby, I do have a friend and his Mum providing support, which is good. I also have the support of one of Mum's care workers, who has also become a good friend over the last couple of years.

My pal and his Mum are both Baptists, and whilst I am not particularly religious, Mum was a Christian, and their Baptist minister has agreed to hold the service - I met with her yesterday, which was helpful.

My pal and his Mum also came round last night, with two other Baptists, one from Sierra Leone and one from Germany, for a friendly chat and drinks. Again, I found this very helpful as I move forward through the next phase of my life.

The hardest part so far has been the state of limbo I find myself in. From four visits a day from the careworkers over the last four and a half years, and daily visits from community nurses over the last few months, to nothing, in the space of just a few hours!

I've been absolutely overwhelmed by the responses and offers of support, I've had on both Facebook and Twitter, from friends both real and virtual. As well as those on my own small Caregiving Forum.

One of my major concerns was funeral expenses. In the early stages of her dementia, Mum got her finances into a real mess, and any insurance policies she may have had, lapsed. Fortunately, here in the UK, there is some financial help available from the government, available to those in receipt of certain benefits, of which I am one. But it won't cover all of the funeral costs - so I still have to find some of the costs.

I'm meeting with the funeral directors tomorrow to discuss the options available. It will need to be a simple funeral to keep costs down, fortunately, under the government scheme, cremation costs and the cost of the Doctor's certificate are covered.

I was never planning a grand funeral for Mum, as I've been grieving for the last four and a half years, and have said goodbye to various aspects of her personality, and her as a person, during that time, and on numerous occasions.

It is now time to celebrate her life, which the minister wholeheartedly agrees with. Mum had a good life, and lived, for the most part a happy and healthy one. She managed to survive until just after her 90th Birthday. I did everything in my power to keep her happy and safe, during her last few years.

Jean Feather b. 20 January 1927, d. 6 March 2017
RIP Mum, I love you and always will, and I'll never forget you.