The Rocky films have always been a huge part of my life. Bugsy, Lou and I think nothing of watching them over and over again. I definitely fell in the ring this week. When I saw my Dad so emotionally broken on Wednesday, I took the hit. During the telephone conversation with their GP, that evening, I felt so defeated. The GP had previously told me that my Mum was in the system to be assessed too. However, the fact was that he’d only referred my Dad. After the call, and for the next few hours, I tried to convince myself that maybe the Doctor was right to put Mum’s mental health on the back burner, as Dad’s situation is significantly more fragile. The following morning, this just didn’t sit right. I felt really down about everything.
One thing I’d tell anyone whose going through a difficult time, is to be picky with which advice you take. People have told me that “things will get easier.” Things will not get easier, however, my coping strategies will improve. When you’re feeling a little beaten, it’s easy to be a sponge and soak up every bit of advice. It just might not be the advice you need. I very much hold on to the advice of people who have lived through a similar situation with their own parents with dementia, as they speak from the heart and experience.
Thursday morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I knew Dad’s severe depression meant that he was now in the system, awaiting psychiatric assessment, but this still left the situation with Mum untouched. I felt like their GP had ignored her circumstances entirely. I knew I needed my arse kicked, so I phoned my Dad’s best friend, Tony. He’s sadly got a lot of experience with his own family and the dreaded dementia, so I’m always in safe hands with his advice. I got the pep talk from him that I needed, to regain my fighting spirit. He told me to drop the act of being compliant with Doctors. He’s so right. I had been completely fobbed off by my Parents’ GP. My Mum matters too. In fact, my Mum’s own mental deterioration has direct consequences to my Dad’s health. “Doctors are not meant to be our friends, they’re there to help us.” Sound advice from Tony, and just the kick up the arse I needed. If you allow yourself to be fobbed off, you make the system work. But for how long?
I’m constantly being told by the professional services, and friends alike, that it’s important I look after myself. Without me, the bottom of the system falls out. I am more than aware of the need to keep myself healthy throughout all this. It’s just sometimes impossible to do so, when you feel you’re not being understood by the medical profession. The banging of head against a brick wall is a regular feeling. Someone asked me recently if there is adequate support out there for Carers. I told them that there is, but it doesn’t get handed to you on a plate, you have to look for it.
Thanks to the fighting talk I’d received from Tony, I already felt stronger again. This week, my emotions have most definitely got the better of me. However, I have never let my Dad see my tears through all this. Even on Wednesday, when he was breaking his heart, I kept my tears until I was on my own. If Dad was to see me upset, it’s pretty much game over in terms of keeping his exhausted spirit up. If I cave in, what use am I to him? I feel like I’ve exhausted my private tears, for now anyway. I’m sure there will be many more days of exhaustive frustrations and heartbreak, but right now, I feel I’ve got my roar back. (Russ, if you have helped, from above, I love you so much for this, but that’s always a given xxxxx)
I took my parents out for a walk in the woods, with Evie. Dad was anxious the whole time; Worried if we’d forget where we parked the red lawn mower. Worried if we’d run over time. He was so incredibly anxious. Mum was preoccupied with looking for sheep. That woman has become obsessed with sheep searching! I’ll be driving along, then suddenly she’ll shout “Look there’s some sheep, Derek can you see the sheep?!.” I don’t remember her ever having an obsession with sheep in the past.
When I got home, I phoned the Mental Health Practitioner, who had assessed my Dad the previous day. What an eye opener that was. She’d be given no background information whatsoever. During her two hour consultation with my Parents, she’d found it really difficult to get clear and concise answers from my Mum. (The penny drops!!!!!). When I told her that my Mum had not been herself for three years, and we suspected dementia, her reply was “that explains her vague answers and confusion.” Bingo!!!!! She couldn’t understand why she’d not been given any information about Mum’s own mental health, prior to the assessment. I explained that their GP was quite ambivalent with regard to Mum’s situation; Whilst he referred her for a Fit to Drive Assessment, due to lack of awareness, he then contradicted himself by saying she had a “heightened personality, due to old age.” (I’m sounding like my Mum now, but is 78 really old age??!). The Mental Health Practitioner told me that she was referring my Mum for a mental health assessment. Music to my ears. I’m so angry that this wasn’t already in the pipeline, as I had previously thought it was.
Do the professional services really need a crisis before reacting? How dangerous is this attitude? I’m a huge believer in gut instinct. If you have an instinct that something is not right, trust it. Then present your case, and keep fighting. To know that the Mental Health Practitioner was on board really did help me. She could see the volatile and fragile situation my Parents are in. Our half an hour conversation renewed my optimism. She listened to my concerns, and she appreciated the impact Mum’s mental health has on Dad’s, and vice versa.
My Parents are relying on me to fight their corner, I’m bloody fighting, make no mistake. Anyone who has been through similar circumstances will appreciate the roller coaster of emotions you face. At least once a week, I tell myself that this is too big for me, that I’m too emotionally attached. However, the majority of the other days, I know that I wouldn’t be anywhere else. My Parents have raised me to fight for my rights and for the people I love. Quite right too.