December 12th – A successful weekend

This weekend was the Christmas tree fair at our local church. It was advertised as tea and cakes and Christmas trees so I was not really expecting to sell many teddies. However, I  set up my Christmas tree with some of my teddy decorations and some of the little teds and put the bigger bears on display with leaflets from The Lewy Body Society. It proved to be a  very successful event for the church with may local walkers stopping by to view the trees and sit down for some tea and taste some of the yummy cakes on display. I was able to talk to a number of folk who stopped at my tree about Lewy Body dementia, none of whom had ever heard of it. One lady quickly realised that one of her neighbours displayed all of the symptoms and another realised that her father also probably had it.  I also managed to sell a few of the decorations and some of the little teddies which was great. I also received lots of compliments about the bears with one or two people liking them to Steiff bears – really lovely to hear!

One of Mum’s carers had told me that she wanted to buy one of the little bears so I took a selection of those that were left into Mum’s care home today and ended up selling 3 more bears! Thus I am now on my way to making my second £300 for the charity which is great news.

Mum was not in a great place today. She was asleep when we arrived and looked tired and dehydrated. There was a cup of cold coffee on the table in front of her.  I woke her up gently and offered her the coffee we had bought from the local shop which I helped her to drink. She was soon awake but looked very tired. ‘ Can I tell you a secret?’ she asked me conspiratorially. I wondered what she was going to tell me and then whispered ‘ I can no longer get of bed. What do you think of that?’ I told her that I thought she was in the best place as it was very cold outside. She then went on to tell me that her boyfriend from school and visited yesterday and sat by her bed for 2 hours. She couldn’t remember his name but it had obviously been a very happy visit!

I gave her a Christmas card from us and also a beautiful card my sister had made and had sent from Tasmania. My card said something along the lines of the best Mummy in the world – to which she added ‘ and the best whisky drinker!!’

She then asked me if I had seen my Uncle Jack in Bromsgrove recently as she had been told he was back from Australia. I told her that he had died over 40 years ago whilst he was living in Australia. ‘ Ah, so it couldn’t have been him.’ she replied.

She then declared that she wanted to find a rich man!  I told her that money wasn’t everything and that I had never managed to find one. She replied that I was definitely wrong but that there were not many in existence.

Her lunch arrived and she managed a few mouthfuls along with her usual glass of whisky before falling asleep. Sleep dreams Mum!

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Wednesday 5th December – Pass the port.

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.’ I have already decked the halls and put up two of our Christmas trees and am now feeling in the Christmas Spirit. I drove over to see Mum in torrential rain but was warmly welcomed by a home full of beautifully decorated trees with a beautiful nativity scene outside in the small interior courtyard.

Mum’s room looked very Christmassy. My sister had brought in a small tree and decorated it with some of Mum’s favourite decorations. Mum looked very cosy snuggled up in bed and I thought she might be in a Christmassy mood. I chatted to her about Christmas but she soon corrected me and told me that it was now all over! She then started talking to her imaginary friend who agreed with her that Christmas had been and gone and that I was wrong! I pointed out that it was only December 5th and she seemed to step down a little in her dogged belief when she told me that Christmas was on the 25th.

I sat down next to her and started to knit a new scarf for one of the little teddies. I am not the best knitter in the world but reminded Mum that she used to do lots of knitting for us when we were children. Interestingly she had full recollection of knitting us all skirts and could not only remember the round knitting needle she used but also the colours of all of the skirts.

She drifted in and out of her own world and had a long conversation with her mother about how Bromsgrove used to be famous for making glass. ‘ I had not heard that’ her mother replied. ‘ Well you need to get your hearing tested’ came back the reply!

Lunch arrived – a lovely looking chicken casserole which Mum said she didn’t like. I coaxed her in to eating a few mouthfuls by promising her a glass of port after she had eaten lunch. I soon gave in and she downed the glass of port in a few gulps!!  After her pudding arrived which again she declined she asked if she could have another glass of port. I told her that I didn’t think that would be wise as she had not really eaten very much. She suddenly became very angry, told me I was stupid and then asked me to leave and never come back!!  I was a bit stunned and then realised that it is her way of having some sort of control of her life. I sat down in silence for a while and did some knitting. After a while I poured her another glass of port which she accepted gracefully.

I only stayed for 2 1/2 hours as the weather was looking much worse, Mum was very sleepy and I am not a fan of night time driving. I kissed her goodbye and asked her if she still loved me. ‘Of course I still love you’ she replied. I left her with the remainder of the port bottle.

 

 

Sunday 2nd December – A special wedding

Robert and I popped in to see Mum for a couple of hours today on the way back from a wedding in Gloucestershire.  The bride was my ‘ nearly god daughter’. Her parents were both my very good friends when I was a very junior doctor and made me feel part of their family. When their first daughter arrived they asked me to be Fiona’s god mother but sadly the vicar at the time wouldn’t let her be christened in his church as they didn’t go to church. Sadly, Fiona’s Mum was tragically killed in a road traffic accident when she and her sister were aged 7 and 8 and they were brought up by  their Dad and their lovely step Mum. 8 years ago another tragedy struck and their father was killed in an avalanche. Both the girls have been a real credit to their parents and Fiona is now a qualified doctor studying to be a Consultant paediatrician.

The wedding was naturally very emotional and very special. Fiona looked stunning and her new husband looked very handsome – he is following my career pathway and is on the way to becoming a Consultant in Emergency Medicine.

The wedding, which was held in an old castle was beautiful and everyone shed a few tears when the groom asked all to raise a glass in the memory of Fiona’s parents.

I enjoyed catching up with Fiona, her sister and all of the family, many whom I hadn’t seen for years. It brought back many fond memories. It is sometimes hard to believe how quickly time passes and how easily we become disconnected from people we used to love and care for. Fiona’s grandmother who walked her down the aisle is now 88. She is a really special lady and I was always very fond her. A few years ago we took her out to lunch in the Peak District. She immediately remembered the lunch and how much she had enjoyed it! She also asked after my teddy bears and asked me if she could buy one! I promised I would send her one for Christmas.

So, after a rather emotional weekend we popped in to see Mum who was very sleepy and vague. She looked very comfortable in her bed. I told her all about the wedding and showed her some of the photos. I do not think she remembered who Fiona was and I am not sure how much she took in of the wedding but she seemed pleased to see us.

She dozed on and off throughout our visit and chatted away to herself intermittently. Robert told her he had made her a Christmas cake. She was very pleased and said that sadly she didn’t have any time to make any these days as she had to work such long hours! She also had a long chat with someone about leaving or not leaving her home in Catshill. She didn’t want to leave until she was married but couldn’t remember who it was she was going to marry.

My memories of Mum as a fit and active lady are now beginning to fade a little. I think it is important that we do try to hold on to our memories as much as possible as I suppose at the end of the day they are the things  we will hopefully have left to treasure.

I would like to wish Fiona and Alex a very happy and long life together.

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Wednesday 28th November – Exceedingly good cakes!

I have been suffering from a miserable cold for most of the week which necessitated the cancelling of my piano lesson and my monthly dinner date with my 2 friends at my favourite restaurant in Market Harborough. My nose had started to imitate a dripping tap with a broken washer  which was accompanied by hysterical sneezing with resultant severe back spasms and occasional incontinence! – not a good combination!

I have been feeling better for the last 2 days but now Robert has started to develop symptoms!  I therefore left him at home today baking Christmas cakes and started my journey over to Mums. First I had to run the gauntlet through all of the kamikaze baby pheasants and partridge up the road from our house who seem intent on trying to commit suicide by playing ‘chicken’.

I was once again diverted but this time realising what was happening, I managed to ignore the diversion signs and found a quicker way back on to the M40. It was surprisingly warm with temperatures hitting 15 degrees but accompanied by torrential rain. I stopped to buy Mum her favourite cup of coffee at the village stores.

I was quite surprised to find Mum’s door locked when I arrived. Two of her carers were in the room with her and had just changed her. She was lying in bed in her night dress and her bed had been moved to the middle of the room so that she can now see out of the window and the television with ease. It also makes it much easier for the carers to change her and get her in and out of bed.

I settled down next to her and offered her one of Mr Kipling’s frosty fancys. I didn’t mention Mr Kipling but told her that they were her favourite frosty fancys. She took a bite and declared that they were ‘Exceedingly good cakes!’

I chatted about my week and asked if she had been watching Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday night. ‘No, ‘ she replied ‘ I always go out on Saturday night’. When I asked where she had been out to,  she informed me that her Mum comes and picks her up and takes her back to her house.

I also told her about our friends 80th birthday party which involved a sit down dinner for about 80 people followed by a casino night with fake money. Sadly, due to my lack of sleep from all my sneezing we had been the first to leave as I was so tired, leaving all the 80 year olds to party!!

I manicured and applied polish to her nails. It is quite difficult to cut the nails on her left hand now due to the contractures in her fingers and sadly trying to do so I nicked her thumb and made it bleed!  ‘ I need a new manicurist’ she declared!

She was not very chatty but did eat quite a bit of her lunch followed by another frosty fancy and chocolate tart for desert.

I sat next to her for the next 2 hours sewing yet another teddy bear and watching a Christmas film. She dozed on and off and held a few conversations with herself which didn’t make much sense.

I kissed her goodbye and headed down to the office to chose our Christmas Day Menu.

 

Wednesday 21st November – winter’s coming!

Winter is definitely on it’s way! I drove over to see Mum today and the car thermometer reached the dizzy heights of 5 degrees! Most of the trees have shed their autumn colours and I was reliably informed by Mum’s carers that the rain I had driven through had been landing as large snow flakes an hour earlier.  I was a bit disappointed to have missed it particularly as I had been diverted several miles due to road works.

Mum was oblivious to the weather and looked very warm and snug wrapped up in bed surrounded by the comfy pillows I had bought her last week. She was chatting away to herself when I arrived but looked up and acknowledged my presence. I told her that it was very cold outside and she asked me if it was raining because she ‘ had to walk home later and didn’t want to do it in the rain.’

I brought with me two of my little teddys to show her. She thought they were very sweet and I promised that I would make her one for Christmas. I explained to her that I am decorating a Christmas tree with them for the church Christmas tree fair in December.

I had up loaded all my photos of our canal holiday on to my laptop and started to show her some of the photos.  She appeared to show some interest and laughed when I told her how many locks we had had to enter. She agreed that much of the scenery was really pretty and even recognised a photo of Elgar in his life jacket. However she then asked me who the ‘ hen ‘ was standing next to him. ‘That’s me!’ I replied indignantly and when she realised that indeed it was a photo of me and not a chicken she laughed and laughed. Thanks Mum.  She did however recognise the little town of Kinver in the photos and remembered having been there many years ago.

Her lunch arrived – minced up roast beef with all the trimmings. Her carer who brought it in noticed my the two little teds and when I explained that I make then for charity she said that she would like to buy two! I promised that after the Christmas fair I will bring some in for her.  Mum managed to eat a few mouthfuls but soon told me she didn’t want any but would like her glass of whisky! I tried to withhold it on the grounds that she should eat her lunch first but she was not too convinced. However I did manage to persuade her to eat a few more mouthfuls.

I sat next to her and sewed the next teddy whilst she dozed. Her pudding arrived – a rather yummy looking chocolate brownie with cream which she managed to eat in it’s entirety – she does love her puddings.

She dozed on and off for the rest of the afternoon, chatting to herself occasionally.

I asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she laughed. She does not really need or want anything but did ask me if we could spend Christmas with her. I told her that of course we would and she seemed very pleased.  I rang Robert and we both talked to him about Christmas. For about 30 seconds she made reasonable conversation with him but then started to involve ‘other people’ in the conversation.

Just before leaving , I played her a recording of my latest piano piece – ‘very good’ she said sounding more than surprised!!  These piano lessons must be working!

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Monday 12th November – goodbye to Jude.

A sad day today as we said goodbye to my sister Jude who flew back to Tasmania this evening – she has a very long journey ahead of her and I wish her well and hope all her flights are on time. She has a wonderful life ahead of her in a beautiful part of the planet – I just wish it wasn’t quite so far away.

We visited Mum this morning. She had just arrived back in her room in the dreaded hoist and was complaining bitterly how much she hated it and that she was going to sue the home for using it on her and  how she hated being there. She did look a bit uncomfortable but she was soon back in her chair. She had been to the ‘hairdressers’, had a bath and was fully dressed and looked so much better now that she has some life back in her grey flat hair. We all told her how lovely she looked and I put some make up on and sprayed her with perfume and she soon calmed down.  The whole ordeal however, had obviously taken it out of her and she was very tired and found it hard to stay awake. She perked up a little when I gave her a small glass of her orange liquor and a slice of angel cake and we told her about our week.

Jude has been visiting friends this week and had been to London and got soaking wet waiting to see the parade of lights around the tower of London for the remembrance commemoration and had had to sit in the theatre later on drying her socks out.  Yesterday we had visited Waddesdon Manor who had commenced their winter and Christmas celebrations. The house had been beautifully dressed for Christmas and there was a Christmas market in the grounds with some wonderful light installations throughout all of the gardens.  I am not usually a fan of such early Christmas celebrations but had bought the tickets as I knew Jude would love to see the house in all it’s glory and Christmas in Tasmania is not quite the same!

I told Mum that we were taking Jude to the airport later on to go back home but I am not sure if she really took in what I was saying. She refused any of her lunch, a rather tasty looking sheperd’s pie  and any pudding.

Jude try to rally her round with the daily crossword and she did manage to answer a few of the clues but was clearly making a supreme effort to stay awake. We finally left her sleeping after Jude bade her goodbye and promised to write. Mum did not show any emotion and I don’t think she realised that Jude was leaving to go back to Tasmania. I think it likely that this is the last time that they will see each other and I am in away pleased that Mum did not realise and become upset.

 

Wednesday 7th November – a toothless crone or a toothless comb?!

I drove myself and Jude over to see Mum this morning in torrential rain. The autumn trees were absolutely stunning silhouetted on the darkened skies.

Mum was not at her best and appeared very tired. She was still in her nightdress and tucked up in bed surrounded by lots of lovingly placed pillows to aid her comfort. She woke up when we arrived but it was apparent that all attempts at conversation were  a huge struggle for her. We had bought her some coffee on the way and Jude helped her to drink some of it as she can now no longer hold a cup safely by herself.

We told her about our week and she was pleased to hear my news that an elderly lady had bought one of my teddy bears having read the advert in the local village news leaflet! She was a delightful lady who used to make teddy bears herself but could no longer see well enough and had arthritis in both of hands which restricted her once very active crafting life style. She loved the bears and took a while to choose one as she said that they were all so lovely!

Jude and I have been making Christmas decorations this week to help decorate the tree for the church Christmas fayre and promote the Lewy Body Society. Jude is very artisitic and has made some gorgeous little cat angels which are really sweet.

One of Mum’s carers arrived with her lunch and a glass of whisky. Jude offered her the glass and then tried to take it from her whilst she ate her lunch but Mum clung on to it draining it’s contents in double swift time! She ate no more than a mouthful of lunch but refused any more.

We decided to try doing the daily crossword with her and surprisingly she came up with a few of the answers with little or no prompting.  One of the clues was ‘ a man’s toilet’ to which I replied  ‘ urinal?.’ Mum broke into a surge of giggles and couldn’t stop laughing! She finally controlled herself and came up with the answer ‘ gents!’

She fell asleep for the rest of our visit. I sat and started sewing my next little ted whilst Jude read the papers. We woke her up to say goodbye and as I stood up my rather ‘toothless comb’ fell out of my bag!  Jude and Mum both had a good laugh stating that it was better to be a toothless comb than a toothless crone!

Jude and I left her snoozing and headed for Webbs, our favourite garden centre to look at all their beautiful Christmas decorations before calling on our friend’s Mum who has Alzheimers and very little short term memory. She was surprisingly good and had just returned for a walk when we arrived. She still lives by herself with great support from her family. I don’t suppose she will remember our visiting her but then how much will any of us remember in a few years time?