Balancing act.

Still recovering from the events of the previous day, I started yesterday determined to not lose sight of my goal. It’s very easy to let emotions get the better of you, but emotions cloud judgement and I need my judgement more than I’ve ever needed it. My goal being; to arrange respite for my Dad and ensure my Mum gets a proper assessment. Whilst trying to keep the anxiety levels down (both parents).

Dad’s stroke Consultant was coming for a home visit yesterday morning. With Dad’s complete inability to process time, my Dad had spent much of the night awake worried he’d miss the consultant. I’d written on an otherwise empty page, the time and his Consultant’s name. But he felt convinced that he was due to come at 1.45am. So this had given my already exhausted Dad an extremely restless night. I’ve since thought about this, and I’m going to try and tell my Dad of an appointment on the day. This will alleviate the anxiety for him. The flaw in this plan? My Mum. She’s constantly reminding him, building on his anxieties. So I’m going to have to try and explain to her that we keep this information from him. (I already know this will be impossible for her).

The Consultant arrived. I’d not met him in the stroke ward, for some reason, our paths never crossed during Dad’s 13 day hospitalisation. What an amazing man! After the day before, feeling that the GP’s U-turn had kicked me in the teeth, it was a welcome feeling to appreciate this medical professional. He had so much empathy for Dad. He was asking him how his day to day living was. Dad was telling him how hard he found it that he can no longer read properly. The Doctor was so respectful of this. Mum chipped in that Dad could still remember things that happened 30 years ago. I find this incredibly frustrating, as I’m constantly her telling how our brains have different functions and that the fire in Dad’s brain left his long term memory unaffected. I can tell my Mum until I’m blue in the face, it never sinks in. So I was glad to hear the Consultant explain that the brain is complex, different parts have different functions. As he was talking, I was sat asking myself whether a loss of long term memory would have been easier than this extensive damage to the cognitive part of his brain. Damaged brain, regardless of area and function, is life changing (Understatement). If Dad had have lost his long term memory, he might not have remembered his son, my brother. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartache that would have caused. Strokes are wicked.

The Consultant was our sort of person, in amongst the information, he provided a bit of humour. Humour always helps a heavy subject. He did his best to explain to Mum how fortunate we are to have Dad still here, that the stroke he had was an extremely dangerous one. I was sat beside a hero of mine. Down to him and his truly fantastic staff, my Dad was sitting opposite me. Eternally grateful and so lucky. He explained that Dad may never, sadly, remember old, habitual processes. However, he could begin to do things everyday, and learn a new routine and habit. He said “Take the piano, we don’t know how to play, but with guidance, we could all learn.” …. I had to interject as I could see my Mum honing in on the word ‘piano!!!’ I could feel her own, damaged cogs moving. I said that the Consultant was not suggesting Mum now teaches Dad to play the piano! …. I think the stress levels in that household are high enough! The Consultant laughed and agreed, under no circumstances, would there be any piano lessons. Mum looked disappointed. (Shoot me now!).

We also discussed Dad’s eyesight as this is a huge concern. He has a double appointment on Monday. The Consultant explained that after the stroke, Dad’s eyes were not damaged. However, the messages from the brain to the eyes were. This explains why Dad can no longer read well and words are muddled. (My daughter was looking at the weekend paper with Dad last Sunday, she had said that Dad found it easier to read words if they had a coloured background). I mentioned overlays to the Consultant, and he agreed that colour was the way forward. Dad’s brain has also damaged his peripheral vision. I know these sight problems, or rather, broken messages from the damaged brain, are such a crushing blow to my Dad. He’s frustrated he can’t read. Reading was everything to him. This just seems so cruel. The ¬†Consultant was talking to Dad about his years of being a Head. Dad said “Yes I loved teaching, but that was my past. This is life for me now. I need to look forward, not back.” I have spent my entire life being proud of my Dad. I also accept that he can’t deal with looking at his former self, as it reminds him just how broken he is right now. I get this. I know I’d be exactly the same.

After an hour and ten minute chat, the Consultant left. I walked him out to his car. I apologised for keeping him, but just wanted to ask him about something. He was so lovely and said he had plenty of time. What a lovely man. I told him about the day before and Dad’s need for space and respite. He told me to definitely organise it, as it’s obviously the rest and break Dad needs from Mum. I mentioned my concerns over my Mum being put on Sertraline, when I feel she’s currently above her equilibrium as it is! Surely extra serotonin is going to exacerbate her levels of anxiety?! My Mum is not depressed, far from it, she’s elevated!! He told me that it’s very important I push for brain scan and referral to Mental Health for cognitive tests. He asked what test she’d had to establish she was at the beginning stage of dementia. I explained the test she’d had in the surgery. (I’ve since read lots of information about dementia tests. Someone with a high IQ may do well in the test, despite having dementia. Whilst a person with a low IQ may have a low score, despite not having any sign of dementia. Mum’s IQ is high, so her high score was not a true reflection of her level of dementia). He agreed that this test she’d had obviously tapped into her sort of brain. He said she needs lots of different cognitive tests to ascertain what sort of dementia we are dealing with. Going back to the Sertraline, he expected that this GP had not wanted to undo any work in progress by their own GP (annual leave) and the tablets were given to try and calm her down in the meantime?

This Consultant was truly fantastic and I really appreciated the twenty minute chat with him outside. He gave informative clarity, which was greatly appreciated. If anyone reading this sadly suspects deterioration in their family member’s mental health, please research dementia. It’s massive, it is not a simple case of one size fits all. I’m no Doctor, but I suspect my Mum is suffering from Frontotemporal dementia, but then I’m only honing in on that one because of the personality and behaviour changes. I could be wrong, no doubt I am. Just look at al the information provided before you go to the GP, information is power.

Yesterday, I had to admit defeat and allow my GP to sign me off next week with stress. Now I’ll have stress on my record. But so what? My parents have given me the best life, so why should I care that this sad situation puts stress on my record. My parents are certainly worth it.

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