When I arrived at my parents’ this morning, my Mum was crying. She was shouting at me that Dad didn’t want to go for respite. My Dad’s sad, tired face told a different story. To see my Mum’s tears absolutely destroyed me. She has shown little emotion as dementia has taken hold these past two years. Today, these were real tears from the heart. Gut-wrenching. I had to take some control over this fragile situation and told Mum to have an open mind about the visit to the home. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that everybody (Clive, Hats & Lou) were at work, so I didn’t have any of my team to sit with Mum. I had no choice, but to take her with us.
The journey there was horrendous. Mum was telling me that this was “wrong” and how Dad would hate being away from home. I felt so churned up, having to stay strong, but crying inside. When we arrived at the home, the Manager was there to meet us. He was so friendly and showed us around. I instantly felt at ease, as I looked out to the views across the gardens. I hoped Dad had felt this too. My Mum was not taking anything in. After we were shown the two rooms available, the Manager suggested the three of us had a private chat in the spacious lounge. Mum was adamant that Dad would not be staying there. In his confused, muddled mind, my Dad was desperately trying to process his own feelings on the home, with the added pressure of Mum’s persistent objections. We weren’t getting anywhere. I asked the Manager if I could ring him later that morning. He said that was fine.
As we left the home, my Mum started to tell Dad how she wouldn’t cope without him at home. Coupled with sleep deprivation, my stress levels got the better of me and I shouted at her. I said that whilst Dad was away, I’d move in to look after her and that it had to be about Dad’s needs at this moment in time. I was shouting at the dementia, not my Mum, and today this dementia was infuriating and selfish. My Mum’s eyes were so little from crying. Earlier, I’d tried to give her a hug, but she stood, rigid to the spot. I find this so hard. My Mum has always been the most tactile, affectionate Mum. My Mum, these days offers little affection, to both my Dad and I. My Dad has always been affectionate, but his need for a hug is much more apparent in his vulnerable state. I am so grateful that I can still feel a heartfelt hug from one of my parents. So grateful for this.
When we got back to Honiton, I decided to go to my home with them. I just didn’t want to return to their home where we’d left earlier with a heavy atmosphere. Selfishly, I needed to see my two animals, they are such therapy right now. Max was sat on my doorstep, waiting for me. Evie was scratching at the window for us to hurry up indoors. I sat my parents down and made them a coffee. I felt emotionally drained, I could see they were too. After the drink, I suggested a walk with Evie. We discussed the respite during the whole walk. Finally, Dad said “I’m so sorry Mary, but I feel have to do this.” I felt I had the green light to go ahead. My Mum was so upset.
I took them back to their house and told them to have some lunch, and that Dad must rest after a heavy morning. When I got back to mine, I just wanted to sit and cry. But knew this wouldn’t get me anywhere. I then phoned the Manager and told him we’d take the bigger room of the two, with the lovely view. I told him I’d take Dad there at 4.30pm (allowing time for Hat to get back from work to sit with Mum). I just sat there on my sofa, not wanting to move. My head was so busy. After an hour of catching up on jobs around my own home, my phone went and it was Mum saying that Dad didn’t want to go after all. I can’t describe how this moment felt for me, but I just wanted to scream. I knew I had to repeat the process of the last three hours of my life all over again; Reassuring Dad it was good for his current situation. Reassuring Mum that I’d take care of her. Reassuring Dad that I’d take care of Mum. I just wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.
It was now 2pm, so I knew I just had to ‘man up’ and go back around to my parents. All morning, my husband had been texting for updates, and all morning I’d been too busy, stressed and drained to fully explain. Suddenly my hubby arrived at our house, he wasn’t due to finish work until 5pm. I’ve never felt so grateful to see him in my life. We drove around to my parents’ and Bugsy took Dad straight upstairs to pack his case. Dad seemed so relieved that Clive was taking the decision out of his fragile hands. I sat downstairs, sorting all his medication out. Mum just walked around, aimlessly.
Seeing my Mum and Dad hug on the driveway killed me inside. Mum and Bugsy were stood watching as Dad and I left. I felt sick to my stomach. After 55 years of marriage, I don’t ever want to separate my parents, but today this was my painful reality. As we got to the top of the road, Hat phoned and told me to pick her up. As I was driving my Dad to the home, I couldn’t look at Hats in the mirror as I knew if I did, the tears would start. I’ve never cried in front of my Dad these last 9 weeks, I was determined to keep this up.
As I sat with the Manager, filling in forms, I looked at Hats and Dad chatting at another table as he ate an evening meal they’d given him. I love my Dad’s relationship with my children. It has always been a special one. He was always the one making tents in the living-room with them or telling them silly stories. Hat was sat there today taking care of her ‘Dandan’ with the most incredible devotion.
After I’d finished the forms, we went up to Dad’s lovely room. Hats and I emptied his suitcase, and Dad got straight into bed! It was 6.10pm. He was already beginning to fall asleep, so we both kissed him, told him we loved him, then left. I got in the car and cried my heart out to my Hats. What a day, what a roller coaster, what sadness.
Tonight, as I type this blog at the dining table, my lovely husband and daughter are sat on the sofa with my Mum. I have a heavy heart, but I’m hoping this respite helps my Dad. Taking everyday as it comes.
Anybody who reads this and has lived through a similar experience, I’m giving you the biggest hug. Parenting poorly parents is heartbreaking at times xxxxxxx