During these last thirteen months, I feel that I’ve felt every emotion possible. To say that double whammy Dementia has shaken my world, would be an understatement. Two parents with Dementia has, I believe, made me a stronger person unwilling to accept injustice. There is nothing just about Dementia. However, I’m allowing this double whammy to make me shout about this horrendous life changer. I don’t write these blogs to elicit a response. As I’ve repeatedly said, these blogs are cathartic… It’s either a blog or the gin! Haha…
When we broke up for the six weeks school holidays, I felt so excited about having that time off. I planned to see friends I’d not been able to catch up with for ages. With one week left before a school return, I know I’ve not done hardly any of the things I’d planned to do. My parents take up so much of my time. However, I certainly don’t begrudge this, I feel so lucky to be their daughter. They’ve been the most amazing parents… I certainly would not have found raising me easy!
With a ten day holiday to Halkidiki booked for mid-August, I was feeling so apprehensive about leaving my parents. I knew I had Louis and his girlfriend, Rosie, around, plus my incredible In-laws, but I really didn’t believe I was strong enough to leave this situation behind me and head for the Grecian sunshine. Talk about deja vu! … This time, last year, I didn’t think I was going to make the family holiday to Crete. It was only the day before the five of us were due to fly, did I then decide I had to go. Last year I was so glad I’d made the holiday. This year, I feel exactly the same. Although a ten day respite felt a tall order, I definitely feel the benefit of having that break. Swimming in the sea and the gorgeous Greek warmth allowed me to have eight hour sleeps! For anyone who suffers from the dreaded insomnia; Waking up to the realisation that you’ve slept eight hours, is similar to a child waking up on Christmas morning!! (Makes me even more intent on opening a cat sanctuary on a remote Greek island one day!!).
The situation between my Mum and Dad had really escalated this summer. My Mum’s energy had reached new heights, whilst my Dad’s energy levels depleted rapidly. Cue my Dad’s request for me to arrange Day Care for him. This was met with Mum’s refusal and anger. She finally agreed to let me take him to The Court, in Rockbeare, twice a week. (I agreed, knowing that I’d been gradually building it up to five days per week).
The day before his first Day Care was due to start, I’d taken my parents to town. Mum had been in a very argumentative mood and was extremely pushy. As we got back to the house, my poor Dad looked exhausted. He looked at me and said “Soph, what if I don’t want to come home from The Court tomorrow?” I cannot erase the event that followed this comment from my head. Time’s a healer? Let’s hope so. My Mum slapped Dad across the chin, then again. She was shouting at him, telling him he was being “ridiculous!” And “Of course you’ll be coming home!” I was so angry with Dementia, I was defeated. I shouted at Mum and told her that under no circumstances must she ever hit my Dad. Dad said “This happens a lot, Soph.” My absolute heart broke this sunny Thursday in August. My two parents, 56 years of marriage, now unable to live together. I can honestly say, during my childhood, my parents never shouted at each other. They must have had disagreements (find me a marriage without the odd difference of opinion!!), but I was never privy to them. After pacifying the situation and feeling that Dad was safe to be left with Mum, I got in the car and drove home in tears. I knew that the time had come to make decisions.
After dropping Dad to The Court the next morning, I intended to ring Mental Health and Social Services and shout for help. As my Bugsy and I were driving my Dad to the home, Dad spoke with such clarity. He said he couldn’t live with my Mum any longer. Guilt is my champion emotion. Dad’s clarity on this day was easing this guilt. He was making the decision for himself. As we arrived at The Court, Hollie, a Manager, was there. Dad fell into her arms and cried. I fell to pieces. I was so relieved that my Bugsy had started his three weeks of annual leave that day. I do not know what I’d have done without my hubby’s support. My Dad’s tears were tears of relief that he was safe. Safe from the evils of Dementia. Dementia, I fucking despise the devastation you cause.
That Friday, I spent the entire day on the phone to Mental Health and Social Services. The Court unfortunately didn’t have a spare room for Dad, but they kindly stalled a new resident moving in until that Sunday. This allowed Dad to stay at The Court for two nights, whilst Social Services sorted emergency respite. With our holiday to Greece being on that Sunday, time was against us. By Friday night, Social Services had sorted a room for Dad in a Honiton Care Home. I had so much support that day from the relevant services, they were all there for us in our moment of crisis. So grateful. Mum was obviously not at all happy that Dad wasn’t coming home, but it was sold to her that he was only going to be in a home for the duration of my holiday. (You’ve got to pick your battles!).
With all this going on, I felt it impossible to leave it and bugger off to Greece!! The Social Worker told me that I needed this holiday and that Dad was now safe. I knew that if I didn’t go, my hubby, my daughter and her partner, Al, would not have gone without me. They all deserved this holiday. I’m so glad I did go, although I felt so guilty on the journey to Stanstead.
Whilst we were away, Lou, Rosie, and my In-Laws were incredible. They held the fort for me, unbelievably grateful to all of them. Unfortunately, my Dad managed to escape from the Care Home, and police officers eventually found him and took him back. This was a scary time for Lou and my In-Laws. They kept it all from us until we got home. They knew, with me being away, it would have done me no good to know he was missing. They’d had such a difficult time. I felt so guilty when I got back. I wonder how many times I use the word ‘guilt’ in my blogs??! … Bloody hate that energy zapper!
My Dad is still in the same home, but unfortunately, given its town location, it’s too accessible for my Mum. She is visiting him most days and the Carers cannot obviously keep tabs on them the whole time. At the moment, I’m off work so it’s not too much of an issue, as I can accompany Mum to see Dad. However, with a return to school next week, the pressure is on for me to find a new home away from Honiton. I’m on it. ‘Soph, should you choose to accept this mission, you have the next seven days to orchestrate a move for your Dad!’…
One thing that irritates me beyond belief is ignorance towards Dementia. People will often comment on ‘bad behaviour.’ A person with Dementia is not playing up, they’re mentally ill and unable to control their actions. My familiar Mum would never have hit my Dad! I get so upset with people’s lack of understanding regarding Dementia. These aren’t naughty people, these are people cruelly struck by a disease that slowly removes their dignity, their spirit and their personality. My Mum’s Dementia makes her an exhausting pain in the arse at times. However, it’s the disease, not my Mum. She behaves like a spoilt child, due to the disease. She doesn’t listen, due to the disease. She grabs and hurts my arm, due to the disease. My familiar Mum was a gentle, loving and empathetic spirit. This disease is unbelievably cruel. Dementia affects so many families, but there is still so much ignorance surrounding it.
When I was about eight years old, my Grandpa (Mum’s Dad) was suffering from Dementia. It was a cold evening at their bungalow in Barton-On-Sea. Suddenly, we looked out of the sun lounge to see my Grandpa hoovering the garden in just a vest and pants. I remember laughing my head off. I found it hilarious. I can clearly remember my Mum crying and telling me to stop laughing. I look back at this memory and think how sad that moment must have been. I was seeing it through the eyes of innocence. Now, it makes me feel sad. That is not to say you cannot allow yourself some smiles. There are plenty of moments that I cry, but then there are plenty moments I can hear my Dad telling me to laugh. I’m so grateful I inherited his love of life and his sense of humour. It’s seeing me through some shitty times right now.
I need to thank Lynsey. She visits my parents’ house each week to tidy it up. She’s amazing and has quickly become an important person in our lives. Her chats with my Mum are so helpful, as Mum has a tendency to listen to her more than her daughter and family! Lynsey, you’re a star. Xxxxxxx
When I told my sister I chose for myself, me Julie, the other day about my Dad’s ‘Great Escape!’ She said “Soph, that is so you!!” Did make me laugh! If anyone would check out the security of a place, it would have to be one of my family!! Haha xxxxxxxxx