I KNOW WHO I AM
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She was constantly trying to keep up the pretence that she knew what was going on.
My instincts told me that Mum needed a daily routine so that we had some order to follow every day, something concrete for her to hold on to. Although 89 years old, Mum was in good physical health. She looked great with her fitted clothes, white hair with a gash of bright red lipstick.
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People used to stop me in the street and ask if she had been an actor. One major concern was that Mum was getting very thin. When I arrived, I started serving food she used to love, such as salmon wrapped in prosciutto with salad and Jersey Royals, but she just picked at it. One evening, I had run out of food and found a microwavable cottage pie in the freezer. I got the message.
The routine started well. Get up, get Mum dressed, cook breakfast, wait for Caroline — a lovely carer who had been taking care of Mum a couple of days a week — then make lunch, walk and nap, dinner, then Love Island, then bed. The show became the focal point and we planned our day around it.
Mum loved it. So did I. One evening in mid-May, Mum came into my bedroom and said she had something important to discuss with me. It is weird when your mother begins to confuse you with your father. I could see her desperately trying to make sense of this. And once she was in mid-meltdown, it was almost impossible to bring her back from the abyss. These emotional meltdowns became a regular feature of our lives for most of June and July, steadily getting worse.
What amazed me was how quickly the illness took hold of her. I watched how her resistance to being helped subsided. She became physically weaker with every day, so that going to a local pub for a drink or a meal became impossible for her. She became increasingly confused and frightened. She became doubly incontinent, which was especially hard. She would forget where the toilet was, and when she got there she would forget to lift the lid. Mornings were the worst.
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I did everything I could to make her feel safe and loved. I found ways to wash her and clean her up without looking. But things got worse. By early August, I was starting to feel overwhelmed and knew that Mum needed more help than I could give her. So, we brought in a fantastic local carer whose job it was to come each morning, wash Mum and get her dressed and help her take her pills. But as quickly as things improved on the physical side, Mum deteriorated mentally. It seemed to have the opposite effect on Mum.
1) Do NOT limit yourself.
She went from being a feisty, formidable, contrary woman to being a very sweet, gentle, yet terrified old lady. In hindsight, Mum had been deteriorating for a few years and it was through the incredible support of her nextdoor neighbour, the people in the village and her best friend Brenda, who was there for Mum every day, that kept her out of a residential home.
Brenda has been the most amazing friend to Mum and has become a good friend to me. Brenda looked at me incredulously and started to smile, trying to explain, but Mum was convinced I was my dad. Mum stormed off and we found her 20 minutes later in Ventnor, a two-mile walk away, moving like Usain Bolt, carrying her clothes. One morning the new carer took me to one side and told that in her opinion, Mum needed to be somewhere where she could receive hour care. I felt I had failed her somehow if she went into a home. And I felt incredible guilt — that I would somehow betray her if I did this.
My brother and Brenda both agreed.
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I had been taking Mum to a care home on the island once a week for day care. Brighstone Grange is a small, beautifully run home with amazing professional staff in a little village overlooking the sea. Mum used to love going there every week for a bath, lunch and to have her hair done; when I picked her up after a day there, she was always fresh, calm and relaxed.
No one comes to the Father except through me. A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. How do you read it?