Right now, I feel like my head will explode from the pressure of the situation I find myself in. Sitting here contemplating whether I dissolve into a million tears, open the Baileys or write yet another blog… So here I am. (The tears are coming regardless of my objection). Please forgive me if you feel it’s self-indulgent, or worst still, woe is me. That certainly isn’t my intention. I loathe self-pity: You have a choice to give up or keep fighting, and I will forever choose the latter. Immense frustration is me. Frustration that I feel I am doing the job of so many others.
Yes, I have probably talked about Dad’s history in a previous blog, but it paints a picture of his current situation. Thirty-three years ago, whilst Head of Bradninch school, Dad suffered a breakdown. He was then diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. He experienced major depression during that difficult time, and also an episode of mania. He didn’t suffer another episode for the next thirty-three years. However, due to the fact that he’d suffered both the depression and the mania, he was put on daily Lithium for life. He had not suffered any more episodes until January this year, post his stroke and Dementia. Anyone who has seen a family member suffer a psychotic episode will be only too aware of the strain it puts on the individual, even more so if that individual is gripped by Dementia. In January, the strain Dad’s mania put on his brain and body was devastating to witness.
My Dad’s breakdown, in 1986, was indicative of the strain he was under, due to the fact that the previous Head would not accept his own retirement. He would frequently turn up on school property to upset Dad… He achieved his goal – twenty-seven years of an amazing teaching career was over for my Dad due to his breakdown.
Dad’s mood, for the past ten days, has continued to take a nose-dive. I have been so anxious about him. On Sunday, his paranoia was in overdrive. Hattie and I knew he was in the throes of a psychotic episode. We both hated saying bye to him as we left the home.
As I was walking into school on Tuesday morning, my Dad’s home told me that they’d had to call the paramedics out during the night, as my Dad was repeatedly banging his head against the wall. This crushed me. It floored me to think that Dad was that broken. It was so hard trying to process this information, whilst trying to keep my role as ‘Mrs V’ going. My lovely Line Manager tried to send me home, but I knew I would go to pieces if I went home. In testing times, we learn where our strength lies. My strength is to keep running, to keep my pace up, because the minute I stop, I know that it will all catch up on me. Question evasion also works for me, I will always deflect a question of ‘how are you?’ Furthermore, children are amazing at lifting spirits, they make me smile. I’m so grateful for my job.
After school, Hats and I went to Mum’s for a meeting about a home safety pendant to wear on her wrist. You’ve really got to celebrate your small victories. I’m so pleased my Mum is now wearing a dementia friendly safety alarm… with very little objection! If anyone has similar concerns about their parents being on their own, £17 per month for this service is an invaluable reassurance. (I’m not on commission! Maybe I should be!)
Once we had sorted Mum’s alarm, Hats and I headed for Dad’s home. It was supper time, but Dad had refused to go downstairs. We took his food up to his room. His pallor made my heart sink. My Dad has always been called the ‘Spanish Gypsy’ due to his olive skin, but now he was grey. I was so glad to have my Hats with me. It was painful to see my broken Dad. The huge bump on his head was evident. He would not stop holding us both. My former Dad: the exuberant, larger than life character, was now a broken, scared little man. It broke my absolute heart. The intensity of Dad’s paranoia was palpable. I asked him if he could remember banging his head. I wasn’t prepared for his reply. He said that he could remember it vividly and “wanted life to be finished.” I knew, at this point, that Dementia had definitely taken a back seat and Dad was suffering the most horrendous episode. Sitting on the bed, in Dad’s room, with my daughter, counselling my Dad, was the hardest experience. I was having to be strong for my Dad, but inside my heart was breaking.
After a long conversation with my exhausted Dad, Hats and I went down to speak to the staff and explain just how unwell he was. I appreciate it’s difficult for a home for Dementia to distinguish between that and mental health. I can appreciate this. However, the evidence sadly spoke for itself. My Dad was suicidal. They agreed to ring me during the night, if his mood escalated. Once again, I came home and went to pieces.
On Monday, I pushed for a blood test that was long overdue to check Dad’s Lithium levels. The results came back today and were dangerously low. It then transpired that during Dad’s move from respite to his home, he had been having a third less daily dose for almost five weeks. I was furious! Yes, you have to allow for human error, but my Dad could have very easily taken his own life on Monday night due to incorrect amounts of medication. My Dad, both physically and mentally, cannot afford this horrendous episode, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s having one.
When I spoke to Dad’s Mental Health Practitioner, she was speechless. She’s going to visit him tomorrow to assess him. She knows, as well as I do, that a return to his regular dose, from today, is not going to stable his mood overnight. I’m so glad she’s on the same page as me.
I would always argue that someone who is in a bubble of Dementia denial, as is my Mum, is more fortunate than someone who is aware of their deterioration. I cannot cope with Dad’s awareness. It utterly floors me. I just want Dad to become blissfully unaware of his brain’s demise. His awareness is heartbreaking.
As Hats and I were sat counselling my poor Dad last night, I was so proud of my daughter. Her Grandad used to read her books, build camps with her, play games, take her to the beach, make her laugh. She is now his support. I know he would be so proud of her strength, maturity and love.
I don’t have any humour to add to this blog tonight, sorry. I just can’t see the funny in life right now.
Thank you so much, Tracy, for the chat this morning. I literally have the best, most supportive work colleagues. xxxxxxx
And thank you, Sue, for the lovely surprise when I got home. It made my day. Xxxxxxx