Ricky Gervais and Mother’s Ruin.

Lockdown is certainly making us adapt to new ways of existence. Parenting by telephone seems the most obvious topic of my discussion…

“Mum, you are posting way too much on Facebook. Remember less is more!”

Wise words from my daughter. I am so used to Hattie and Louis parenting me in person, now that it has to happen over the telephone is really challenging. I miss them both so much and cannot wait until I can hug them again.

So, whilst I’m coming to terms with this new ‘normal’, I’m also having to adapt to this new process with my mum. Parenting her by telephone is virtually impossible! For the last five years, she has been difficult to parent in person, however, it is even more problematic now I have to do it at a distance. On Friday, she phoned me to say that she had been down to town. Down to town?! During a bloody lockdown? Bloody marvellous! It is fair to say that I lost my rag. (She was clever to tell me after the event). It was definitely a premeditated rebellion because when she phoned to tell me, she started with, “Soph, I know you’ll be cross……” Cross was an understatement! What was so important that she couldn’t wait for my daughter or my husband to run an errand for her? She apparently needed ten stamps, this month’s prescription and some cards for birthdays in May. Now she has done it once, I just know she will do it again. I have my sources, of which I am really grateful, so I know that she went into at least four shops. That bloody woman! I know it wasn’t just stamps she was buying. I can put money on the fact that she came home with some chewing gum and dog biscuits for a dog she does not even have!

Shock tactics are the only way to deal with my mum’s dementia at times. She is so rebellious and determined. After the trip to town revelation, I knew the only way to stop her doing it again was to scare her. Telling Mum that she could die if she got COVID-19 was not an easy discussion. It was met with, “Soph, stop worrying, you’re being ridiculous!” My mum is driving me to alcohol! I quickly changed tack and told her that she could receive a fixed penalty for breaking the rules…”Can you defend me, Soph, if that happens?” Bloody give me strength woman!

My mum used to say that raising me made her unshockable… How the tides have turned! It takes me back to when I got my first tattoo. Hoping that Mum would hate it, she told me it was, “actually rather artistic!” That was not the response I was hoping for! It certainly now feels like I am parenting a seventy-nine year old teenager.

Dad is constantly in my thoughts. I know that I am missing vital time with him. The staff at his nursing home are just incredible. After a Skype call to Dad the other day, a member of staff then asked me how I was and gave time to listen to how difficult it was for me to see him on a screen. The staff are dealing with cases of COVID-19 and their residents’ dementia, yet still ask how a family member is, following a call to a relative. I am in awe of this home and its magic, I feel so grateful to have Dad there. Unbelievably grateful.

Ricky Gervais has always been someone I have admired. His scriptwriting is so unique. Watching the new series of ‘After Life’ has had me crying, laughing and then crying some more. He successfully marries pathos with comedy to create compelling viewing. As I sit and watch it with my hubby, I often wonder if it’s a little too close to home. When he goes to visit his dad, I’m just sat in a state of reflection and tears. However, I continue to watch as I know that Ricky Gervais is helping many of us deal with the inevitable.

Right, need to wrap this blog up. Where there’s life, there’s humour. Mum is constantly talking about her Marmite on crackers and how it helps control her type 2 diabetes! The other day I asked her if she’d had her Marmite on crackers?…

“Soph, what is your obsession with Marmite? You’re always talking about it!”

Am I really, Mum, am I really?!

Xxxxxxxxxxx

 

The Infectious Human Spirit.

Invisible threat reigns terror in our world,

How long it lay dormant? A secret untold.

It builds momentum like a cruel, raging fire,

A monster of terror that just does not tire.

A microscopic, yet deadly, threat to us all,

Insatiable appetite, it does not stall.

 

 

Isolation and boundaries bring troubled hearts,

Devastating families right from the start.

As we live our new ‘normal’ our hearts all break,

We hope it is not real each time we awake.

We cling onto our spirit and live in hope,

Our spirit, a power that helps us to cope.

 

 

Our heroes on the front-line… We are in awe,

Dedication to duty, pride in them all.

Risk their lives to save others – selfless hearts unite,

We give huge gratitude as they keep up their fight.

 

Xxxxxxxx

Masking the Pain.

Envy is an incredibly destructive emotion, one I do my utmost to never succumb to. However, just recently I’ve found myself feeling envious of all my friends who have their children at home with them, during this lockdown. My children are now adults and live in their own homes. I feel powerless as I cannot keep them safe. This isn’t just a maternal feeling, as my hubby also feels this. Yesterday, he said, “We’d have loved being isolated at home with our two wouldn’t we?” We certainly would. I used to cry on the night before a school return after the summer holidays, as I knew my two best friends were heading back to school. I’m sure others reading this can relate.

My heart breaks for my friends who have grandchildren that they cannot visit. This must be so difficult. We know, in our hearts, that this social distancing is for the greater good, yet we all still feel the pain of isolation from those we love the most.

Last weekend, I Skyped Isabella and Horatio, this was the first time I had spoken to them since their mum, Bonnie, passed away. It was so lovely to see their faces, yet heartbreaking at the same time. I miss their mum every day, I cannot begin to comprehend the emotions they both feel. They were both excitedly telling me about the tobogganing they were going to do on a sunny, but chilly day in Calgary. The subject then turned to the coronavirus as Bella asked me if we were allowed to go out in England. I was holding back tears as I felt overwhelmed with what these poor children have already gone through this year and now have the threat of the coronavirus in their lives. Just at a time where they need the comfort from their friends, they’re having to isolate from everyone. I know, however, that Bonnie will be watching over her family to keep them safe.  Xxx

One thing I’m learning about myself is that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. When Dad retired from a teaching career of twenty-seven years, he bought the “corner shop.” It really was an extension of his personality. When Tesco landed in Honiton, this was the beginning of the end of small businesses like my parents’ shop. Not wanting to give in without a fight, Dad continued to write his infamous daily billboards and write his weekly diary in the local newspaper. Times were hard but Dad always maintained his strong resolve to not give up or give in. He continued to think outside the box and do his best to make himself laugh, despite difficult times. Inevitably, the shop eventually had to close, but not until Dad was done!

…During a visit to my GP at the time, he told me that he made a special detour each day from his Buckerell home to the surgery just to see my dad’s billboards. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, so you find my dad funny, but are you actually going to help me with my constipation?!’

Like everyone else, the magnitude of this horrendous pandemic absolutely petrifies me. When life throws lemons my way, I try my best to fight back with humour: whether it’s behaving like a complete twat in videos or rising to any challenges thrown at me with the words “dare you,” (Thank you Marit!) I’m so grateful to my dad for teaching me to always laugh and to never take myself seriously.

Dad was private tutoring right up until three months before his stroke. He didn’t tell me at the time, but one day, after giving a child some Maths tuition, he played football in their garden with the boy. After Dad’s stroke, he admitted to me that he suddenly “felt odd” whilst playing that football game and knew it was time to retire from private tuition. I think this was his body’s way of telling him all was not well. A week before his stroke, my parents had a holiday in our beloved Greece. A keen swimmer, Dad was in the sea enjoying the Grecian waters, when suddenly he had to stop and swim back to shore. Again, indicative that his body was under threat. How lucky were we that my parents were back in England before that fateful day in July, when all our lives were turned upside down? So lucky. I’ve always been told to count my blessings – this I do daily.

With the potential threat of the coronavirus to all nursing homes, I was sent forms and questions regarding Dad’s wishes if he was to become poorly. I had put off completing this documentation for over a week, distracting myself with stupid video-making and so on. Last night, I finally found the courage to fill it in, then consequently cried my eyes out.

If this horrific COVID-19 teaches us nothing else, it certainly is our wake-up call to be grateful and to never take life for granted.

We live in such an entitled society and only now that restrictions are placed upon our lives do we realise how fortunate we have been. (I just wish the minority would not ignore these restrictions, those people are utterly demonic morons). We all worry for those we love and we cry for those who have lost a loved one. Never, in a million years, would we have seen ourselves in a horrific part of history that will be discussed in many a classroom in the future…Yet here we are.

As with all my blogs, I try my best to find humour in life. Mum’s painting of her garden shed slightly worries me. Particularly due to the fact that I know she had a tin of “Sunkissed Orange” prior to lockdown! During a telephone conversation yesterday…

Me: Mum, you haven’t got any paint on your lovely new fence and gate have you?

Mum: No, Soph, of course I haven’t……. would you be cross if I have?

Me: No, I wouldn’t be cross Mum, just disappointed.

 

…(When did I become a grown-up? I do not like it!)

Everybody, please stay safe. Hugs and love to you all xxxxxxxxxx

United In Grief And Hello To 3AM Biscuits.

Hello to the all too familiar small hours. Insomnia, you are such an unwelcome guest, yet once again here you are.

The grieving process has been an active part of my headspace for the last twenty months. Since my dad’s stroke in July 2018, I’ve been grieving the loss of a great mind. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my familiar mum too, but I’ve had longer to accept her dementia. Never more have I felt so connected to my dad as I do now. Not connected to the man he is today, but the man he was. All his old philosophies are currently screaming in my head. His life mantra, “Make someone smile and make sure that someone is yourself,” is constantly on repeat in my mind.

When Dad was Headmaster of Bradninch school, I was so upset that he would not let me go to it. Upset because I wanted to see my crazy dad in action. He refused to have me there as he never wanted to be my teacher, just my dad. Today, I know that he was my teacher anyway, my teacher of life. In any case, I know he refused to have me in his school because he knew I’d have let the side down and been a talkative little shitbag in class! (Cannot blame him for that!)

Speaking to a staff member from his home yesterday really lifted my tired spirit. I’ve not seen my dad for twelve days now and I’m so used to seeing him all the time. I was telling this member of staff how my dad always had the ability to bring sunshine to times of adversity. She replied, “Soph, he walks around the home smiling and we all say he brightens our day.” Sat in the car park of Axminster Tesco, I was reduced to tears. Dementia has devastated our lives, stolen my dad, yet his smile is prevalent when others need it. I’m so proud of that scrumptious man, unbelievably proud.

When his home went into lockdown, they set up Skype to allow families to see their loved ones. Unfortunately, this does not work for me. I Skyped the home once, but I knew instantly that it would not help me. Seeing Dad and already witnessing the deterioration in him after just one week rendered me heartbroken. As I’ve seen him so regularly, the changes have been subtle, but after a week of isolation, the decline was so painful to see. He was simply repeating my words in an echolalic fashion. I knew immediately that Skyping him was not the answer to keeping myself mentally strong. All I want is to be able to sit with him and cuddle him in his most vulnerable chapter of life.

With this horrendous situation we’re all facing, we’re all grieving for our former lives prior to this evil virus. We’re all united in fearing its destruction. We’re all united in fearing it taking one of our loved ones.

Yesterday, as I was walking into our school meeting, one of the senior leadership team told me I shouldn’t be in school as they had read my medical information. All weekend, I’d been battling with my family to not mention my asthma to my school. I don’t want to be considered one of the vulnerable on that list, when I should be helping others as much as I possibly can. This mad March hare does not find defeatism easy to accept at all. I have to admit, my heart sank when I was told I’d be going home. However, I soon learnt that my whole team was being sent home anyway, to work with children “remotely,” so this eased my guilt. All these unfamiliar terms are sadly now the norm: teaching children remotely, self-isolation, social distancing…

Since Lou moved to Taunton last November, my empty nest syndrome has been so prevalent. With both my babies now living somewhere other than with me, I’ve had to grow up fast! (Not too fast, think I’ll always be Clive’s third and problem child!) Post Boris’ speech, the grim reality that I won’t be seeing Hats every day, or Lou at weekends, is an absolute destroyer. Envy is an ugly emotion, yet I find myself envying those who have children still at home, as they can do all they possibly can to try and keep their babies safe. I just feel powerless, I cannot give my adult children hugs and kisses.

Everyone is currently having to sacrifice something in order to do their utmost to prevent loss of life. I have friends who cannot see their grandchildren and my heart absolutely breaks for them. Especially those who have newborn grandchildren and cannot indulge themselves in that euphoria. It’s totally heartbreaking.

As adults, we’re struggling to come to terms with this invisible threat to our loved ones. How must children feel when they cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of this killer virus?  It’s all so heartbreaking.

What do we do to keep our spirits up? We do our best to smile and laugh when we can. I don’t believe in a God (and I’m not knocking those who do, we all have the right to our own beliefs), but what I do believe in is the human spirit. A random act of kindness lifts you for a whole day, so it’s things like this that we need to focus our efforts on.

My mum, Mrs Snakeskin Shoes herself, is keeping me busy on the phone. “Soph, can I still go down to the paper shop and buy my chewing gum?”… Yes Mum, you can no longer see your family, nor can you have people in for coffee, but you can still go shopping for Wrigley’s Doublemint!!! I’m now beginning to think I need an automated message constantly played to her explaining the complexities of self-isolation!

It’s 3:30am and my stomach is rumbling, so it’s that McVitie’s time again! I despise anyone who can boast a full night’s sleep! Haha! Not really, (but you are a slightly annoying knob!)

Let’s all dream of a world, post COVID-19 that is more grateful and less entitled. Xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smiling through the tears.

Seek solace in the sparkle and warmth of a grin,

It gives comfort when strength is depleted within.

An audience, once captivated, cushions the blow,

Brings words of encouragement when the spirit is low.

 

Disconnections and roadblocks that weren’t there before,

The brain’s infrastructure in harmony no more.

An incredible mind that taught me so much,

Defiant dementia resolute in its clutch.

 

The eyes speak a language that words cannot find,

Tangled wires of confusion, devastation of mind.

The brain remonstrates with this evil disease,

But dementia destroys all the pathways with ease.

 

An unwelcome intruder determined to steal,

A long, painful journey with no time to heal.

This disease can’t break bonds; the foundations are tough,

The knowledge we’re there for my dad is enough.

 

Xxxxxxx

Free Range Chickens in Snakeskin Shoes.

I have lost my blogging mojo of late. Losing Bonnie hit me hard, she was such an important person in my life. I am really missing her witty messages and dry sense of humour. She was our Superwoman. Tonight, as always, this blog is a bit of therapy for the Sophster.

My mum continues to test my patience. I am learning to count to six million before reacting (No mean feat for someone who is baffled by numbers!)

We have had issues regarding Mum and her vulnerability with her bank account. This ended up with new cards, direct debits being cancelled and so on. One of the issues being that she had three different insurance policies on one electrical appliance! It is criminal how companies prey on vulnerable people. After I had managed to rectify all the issues, it all came back to haunt me this week –  “Soph, you’ll be proud of me, I had a letter in the post, I’ve just insured my tumble dryer.” It is fair to say I probably exhausted the f-word! I then discovered yesterday than she has another new policy for said appliance with yet another company! I’m trying my best to allow her some independence, whilst constantly monitoring her behaviour and actions. She is a full-time job and I continually have to be one step ahead of the game. Marvellous!

My dad has been in his new home for two months. Honestly, I am in awe of the staff there. They are all incredibly empathetic and respectful regarding the complexities of dementia. Whenever I arrive at the home, there are always activities going on to entertain the residents and exercise their minds. The other day I had arrived ten minutes too late… They had been having a karaoke afternoon! It is probably just as well, as I would not have wanted to hand the mic back!

Recently, I was talking to someone about looking after parents. They said that they could never put one of their family members in a home. Two years ago, I would have completely agreed with them. Previously, I would have felt adamant that no parent of mine would ever be in a nursing home. However, I know (and finally accept) that Dad’s needs are now too complex for me. I had questioned whether I should give up work to look after Dad. I now know this would not have been good for either him or I, not to mention my husband and children. Now I am able to be his daughter, visiting him for quality time. This is so important and these moments are cherished. I never want to lose my relationship with my dad, I know that his home situation allows our dad and daughter connection to continue.

Having now been registered with the surgery next to his home, Dad’s new GP phoned me after she had visited him. She was lovely and gave me so much time. Filling in Dad’s TEP form (Treatment Escalation Plan) with her was not easy: it is very hard to detach from your own feelings, put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and answer the questions accordingly and respect their wishes.

Admittedly, I find it so much easier to cope when Dad is really confused. His moments of lucidity are the times I can fall apart. When he recognises the demise of his brain, it destroys me. I cannot begin to imagine how scary it must be for an individual recognising that they are losing their foundations. I have been told that my dad is entering a new phase of his dementia and I am definitely witnessing this shift. The blissful bubble of bewilderment is all I wish for him now.

Dad has recently moved to a ground floor room due to his poor mobility and lack of spatial awareness. Prior to this, one afternoon Hats and I were taking my parents back downstairs after being in his room. Dad, Hats and I made our way to the lift. Mum was still in the room, fiddling and fussing with Dad’s clothes in his wardrobe. The lift door shut and Mum ran to the door, banging on it, “Wait for me!!” Unfortunately, we could not open the doors, so had to make our way downstairs, knowing that Mum could not navigate her way back down. As we got downstairs, Dad proceeded to get out! We then had to usher my bewildered dad back in to return to pick Mum up. As we arrived back on the second floor, Mum was stood there shouting. Dad then got out to walk back towards his bedroom just as a stroppy Mum jumped in the lift. Talk about herding cats! Hats and I were desperately trying to stifle our giggles. It reminded me of the chicken, grain and fox riddle! Which do you take across the river first?!

After a tiring day at school a couple of weeks ago, I turned up at Dad’s home to find Mum in new snakeskin shoes. They were teamed with bright red stripey socks! I did wonder if she had been auditioning for a role in ‘The Wizard of Oz!’ – Nothing would surprise me these days! I do worry about the longevity of Mum being free range. Nevertheless, I know she will never be lost in her conspicuous attire! (Being completely phobic about snakes, I am actually petrified of Mum’s new shoes!)

I have considered starting my running again, but I know how addictive that became in the past. I would run about eleven miles per day. I am afraid if I start again, I will keep running towards the sunshine and not stop haha! Therefore, I will just continue to eat copious amounts of chocolate, drink gin by the bucket-load and enjoy the comical reprieve dementia often provides. Xxxxx

 

Bonnie xxxx

The brightest of lights went out on 15th January 2020.

Bonnie, a treasured cousin and a dear friend, I am going to miss you so much. Xxxx

Bonnie – the epitome of strength and fight,
She would never give up, when others might.
Her will, her tenacity were both made of steel,
She was determined to fight, determined to heal.

Bonnie, by name, by nature, by soul,
Her fortitude present when life took its toll.
On her journey, she gathered an Army to empower,
To lift her spirit during the darkest of hours.

Bonnie – her humour was second to none,
If you needed a laugh, she was there, job done.
“Yoga cat Callie… Dale will be laughing all day!”
“It was never that funny!” – She just had to say.

Dale and Kathy, her protectors, maintained high morale,
Defeat…An option Bonnie would never allow.
Isabella and Horatio filled her heart with pride,
She’ll forever watch over them, be there at their side.

Bonnie – the bravest, she was there to inspire,
As Cancer built strength, she fought it with fire.
Superwoman, we love you, you were one of a kind,
You’ll live on in our hearts and forever our minds.

Soph xxxx

Lost.

I am so glad I took the advice of my two children and a lovely Doctor last year and started my blog. In moments of sadness, it helps me to organise my thoughts and anxieties. The last few days have been emotionally challenging and I’ve felt incredibly defeated by everything. My passion for writing is always prevalent during these moments, so here I am.

Last Friday evening’s journey home from work was not the usual reflection of the school day. The Admiral Nurse had phoned me during the day and had left a message on my voicemail to ring her, so I returned her call on the drive home. She was asking how Mum had been lately and she was making suggestions to increase Mum’s daily activities, in a bid to ease pressure on me. Steering the conversation towards how I was feeling, I soon realised it was a welfare call. The tears came. Asking if I’d phoned the counselling number she’d given me, my tears were probably indicative of the fact that I hadn’t. She is such a warm and genuine person, who works tirelessly for families affected by Dementia. During my conversation with her, I realised just how broken I feel right now. Promising her (and myself) that I’d make the call, I thanked her for the chat and then tried to stop the tears before I got home.

As soon as I’d hung up, our Social Worker phoned me to say that Dad had been accepted by the new home that I’d taken him to visit last week. I was given the following Wednesday (tomorrow) as the day to move him. Still wobbly from the previous call, I broke into tears again: Tears of exhaustion, tears of relief and tears of trepidation over the imminent move. I felt relief that my Dad would no longer be in limbo, as he’s aware, to a degree, that he has to move. However, I know that moving him will be so unsettling to an already unsettled brain. Again, I feel so fortunate to have this woman helping with my Dad’s situation. She’s incredibly empathetic and works so hard for our family. I just couldn’t cope with how insurmountable everything felt at that very moment. I sat there for a few minutes to try and gather myself, before going into Mum’s house to pick her up for an appointment with her GP.

Admittedly, I didn’t feel up to discussing Mum’s Dementia that night, but I had little choice. My parents’ GP is great and he was asking Mum lots of questions. He asked me how I was coping with Mum. I was honest. Sadly, Mum doesn’t take much information in these days, so my honesty was falling on deaf ears. Fortunately, the GP gave Mum lots of advice about the need to wear her Home Safety alarm. He asked me if I was getting help from relevant services and he was asking how Dad was coping in the home. Mum was distracted throughout the whole appointment.

I find it increasingly demanding to juggle their complexities. No two cases of Dementia present similarly, and my parents’ could not be any more different. Dad is totally reliant on others to help him. My Mum’s Dementia exacerbates her determination and will, making her an extremely difficult character to cope with.

Yesterday morning, my husband and daughter both knew that I was not up to work, but I have been determined to not have one day off this year. Until now, I had achieved this. I’d been off the entire Autumn term last year, and I was adamant that I would not miss any school this year. As I got to work yesterday, I felt so totally overwhelmed. Normally, I’m able to keep up a facade, but yesterday I was failing miserably. My Line Manager is amazing and incredibly empathetic. I held on to every word she said whilst she was faced with the pathetic Sophster. I feel so lucky to work with such a great team of people. We all seem to be facing challenges of different natures at the same time. Emma, our Line Manager, is amazing and such a support. I felt so guilty not being fit for purpose, but she sent me home to deal with my emotions.

I have cried so many tears over the last two days and have been hard work for my family to deal with. Hattie really astounds me with her wisdom. Twenty-three, but my daughter has such an old head on young shoulders. She’s my Earth Angel. Bugsy has had to endure his trainwreck of a wife when he walks through the door. I’m missing Louis so much, but he rings me everyday.

So, tomorrow, a new home for my Dad. He will be just down the road from my place of work. This gives me comfort. Knowing that my Dad will be in Axminster will definitely help me cope. It will allow me to go and see him after school without the pressure of taking Mum. It has a great reputation and it is a secure and locked home. I’m hoping to wake up tomorrow with renewed optimism. Maybe, on rare occasions, we just have to let the depths of darkness sweep over us, to enjoy easier days ahead and a break in the clouds?

If anyone has taken the time to read this ramble, apologies for its tone. (Man the fuck up Soph). Massive thank you to Emma, for being such a lovely Line Manager. Julie and Sue, thank you for the hugs today xxxxxxxxxx

 

Fighting sadness.

Looking back over the last week, I understand why I feel so completely drained. A week ago today, I had a phone call from the home to say Dad had been missing for half an hour. It was 7:45pm, raining and dark. I immediately went into panic mode. My Dad’s home is set in beautiful surroundings on Hembury Fort hill, but not beautiful at night with a very unwell seventy-eight year old man missing. As Clive and I drove up to the home, the Police helicopter was circling the area. At that point, I went to pieces. As we arrived at the home, a colleague of my Husband’s was there. He was asking me lots of questions. The sniffer dog arrived and Bugsy told me to stay by the home so I didn’t confuse the dog’s scent. It all felt overwhelming for me. I was calling out my Dad’s name. I felt sick to my stomach.

The staff at the home were amazing. The day staff had been called back in to help with the search. Dad had managed to get out of a resident’s ground floor bedroom, through their patio doors. I blame nobody for this. If Dad had been determined to leave, he would have left regardless of extensive measures to keep him there.

As time went on, I repeatedly kept telling myself that this was not how my Dad’s story was going to end. It rendered me utterly helpless.

An hour had passed, then a call came over the Police radio to say that a man fitting Dad’s description had been picked up by two Paramedics. He was walking on the A30. I was trembling to the core. I couldn’t believe he’d been found. When the ambulance arrived at the home, I’d never felt such relief. Dad walked up to me, looked at the Paramedics and said “Aw here she is, here’s my Soph.” I could not stop hugging this little hero of mine.

The Police believed someone had picked him up. However, when they’d realised he wasn’t well they’d dropped him off in Honiton, without alerting the Police. How bloody irresponsible, but I’ll never know who they were. As Dad was sat in the home, surrounded by Hats, Al, Bugs, myself and the staff, he was telling us how he’d fallen in the road a couple of times. To say he was lucky that night, would be an understatement.  He was wrapped in a blanket the Paramedics had given him, and he was eating carrot cake and drinking tea. I knew we had been about half an hour away from the Dartmoor Rescue team being called out. As we drove down the hill towards home, I just could not stop crying.

Louis had paid for us to go away for the night the following day. It was a Silver Wedding gift. I didn’t feel up to travelling to Hampshire in the aftermath of Dad’s disappearance, but knew Bugs and I needed to get away. The whole journey there I was receiving calls from all the relevant services. Then came the call from our Social Worker telling me that the home could no longer keep Dad safe. It completely floored me. Finally, Dad was in a beautiful home, where I knew he was being looked after. However, it’s not a locked home. It has an open door policy. Since Dad arrived at the home, they have had to implement safety measures, but this is not how they advertise their home. I get it. It’s just so sad that he now has to be moved again.

Louis had booked us a night in a lovely hotel in Bournemouth. We drove on to Barton-On-Sea and we parked outside my Grandparents’ former homes. I just felt lost. I wanted to be that carefree child again, with no responsibilities. I always feel I’m home when I’m in Barton. This feeling was overwhelming in this moment. We walked the length of the beach and I felt an emotional wreck. It was so lovely to have quality time with my Bugsy, it’s something we rarely have these days.

This week has been meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call. I feel so burnt out right now. We have had to endure difference of professional opinion regarding Dad’s mental capacity, whereby the Deprivation Of Liberty Safeguard Assessor deemed him to have capacity. Matched with the Psychiatric Doctor’s opinion that he has not got capacity. By Friday, a decision was made that he has a fluctuating mental capacity, therefore a Deprivation Of Liberty Safeguard has been put in place for his best interests.

I must have heard the word “complex” so many times this week. I’m sick of the word. However, Dad’s situation is complex. His Dementia and Biopolar are not a good partnership, with the lines between them becoming increasingly blurry. I’ve been shouting for three weeks that my Dad’s mental health is causing him these episodes. Whilst the services have been arguing it’s his Dementia. Three weeks ago, Dad was banging his head against his bedroom wall in a bid to end his life. He told Hats and I that he couldn’t cope with how his head felt any longer. This was devastating to hear and a clear marker for a mental health episode. Then his disappearance was caused by Dad needing to walk to Seaton to buy “shaving tickets,” again evidencing an episode.

On Friday morning, a familiar voice from Social Services phoned me. She’d been my rock last year when Dad was first taken ill. We’d since been allocated a different person, but equally as lovely. As soon as I heard her voice, I cried. She’s one of those warm, generous people who genuinely care. I miss my Mum’s love and empathy so much, this woman’s call was just what I needed. She told me that all the services had to listen to me, as I’m the one who truly knows what’s going on for Dad. This call lifted me from a dark place on Friday morning. She is in charge of finding homes for me to visit to see if they’ll suit Dad. I know we’re in safe, empathetic hands.

During a meeting this week, it was agreed that Dad needs to get out more to raise his mental health. We’ve not thought we could take him out, until now, because of the upheaval of his recent move. Hattie and I took him for a very blowy walk along the seafront, and then back to our favourite haunt for lunch. It felt amazing having that time with Dad. It’s just a balancing act with Mum. She needs us too, but I cannot take them out together. I’m very aware that Dad’s decline is rapid. He’s so aware of his deterioration. I know we need to raise his mood, before Dementia puts him in a bubble of unawareness. His current awareness destroys me. I fucking hate how my intelligent, life-loving Dad is at the mercy of two evil illnesses. Fighting for him to have some sort of quality of life is my main purpose right now.

Words aren’t enough to express my gratitude for my family. They are my rocks. I have cried so many tears of frustration and grief this week.

I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who went looking for Dad last Sunday. It’s such a lovely community. I love the people of Honiton. In moments of utter distress, people step up. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re all such treasured and loved friends. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking point.

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