Life’s Lessons – Maria’s Diary

Learning is an ongoing natural progress for everyone. My dad used to say, the day we stop learning is the day we die. That was when life was sweet, everything ran in a predictable fashion.  That is, toasters blew up, kids got sick with all the normal stuff, flu, measles etc. Back then money was tight but everyone managed as we simply got on with day-to-day living. Today life should be easier two kids grown and with no mortgage, we have it made.

Now, however, we are faced with a new challenge. How to cope with and help an aging parent whose memory is behaving in an erratic fashion. When I mention the words, vascular dementia, I get sympathetic looks but not much practical advice. So if anyone in the blogging world has experience of this unpredictable event in our lives, I would appreciate all of the advice you can throw my way.

Bob is as usual, kindly on standby to offer hugs to everyone including dad. Though he is still miffed over the bow  tie photo so, what the heck here is a reminder.



Minding Mum

Mum’s ten year struggle ended on 30th May 2013.

The turning point in her life was a freak accident. A horse box ramp fell back on her pinning her to the ground. Two operations later, she declared she was alright.

I noticed a change in her, she was still bossy, inquisitive and loving but no longer the driving force for family events. Gradually, she stopped doing the things she used to love, driving, going to the local historic society, watching her grand son run at athletic meetings, until her days were spent at home, reading the papers, cooking and watching tv.

Her decline continued,  she relinquished her cooking and cleaning duties to Dad, who was hopeless at both but did his best.  Questions like, “How do I cook a turkey?”, her answer, “Put it in the oven”, became the normal for him.

In late July 2012 she suffered numerous strokes. She was given the last rites and declared, “I don’t want to die.”

She didn’t.

Confined to bed by a body that was weak and wouldn’t work the way she wanted it to brought more change.  A liquid diet and constant attention meant that by October she was ready to be released.

She came home. My husband worked a miracle and transformed mum’s sitting room into her bedroom. Lizzie, my sister and me were dad’s support in his care of mum. Rolling up our sleeves we did so with great enthusiasm, and ignorance to the amount of work and vigilance that is needed. The house often shook with everyone’s laughter as we learnt to cope.

The decline of her health robbed us of time.  My parents were robbed of their daily banters, outings, visits to friends and  simple things like shopping. Most importantly she was robbed of her independence.

Dad’s life was stressful, watching for signs of infection, having carers arrive three times a day for  thirty minutes, nurses, doctors, travelling with her by ambulance to the hospital close to us  to be told she couldn’t be given the correct treatment but the hospital  ninety miles away could take her, sitting in a & e’s while teams of doctors discussed what could be done or travelling by taxi in one instance.

Mum’s wicked sense of humour helped.

Her stubborness frustrated.  I doubted everything I was doing.

My mental health was being thrashed. On impulse, I rang a lady who offers help, she claims to be neither a medium or clairvoyant. Her first words to me were, “Come see me now.” I didn’t hesitate.

She didn’t give me a magic formula or the winning lotto numbers, but the truth. She described relations who were surrounding me in her room and with  her first words, ” The old lady with the limp says your mum is the contrariest woman in Ireland and she wants to have a haircut.” I knew she would only tell me the truth, as she was talking about my grandmother who died when I was around six years old. And mum did need a haircut.

I left her house that day and sat in the car crying. Oddly it helped. I owe her a lot for giving me hope and strength.

Life didn’t get easier in the following eight weeks.

We are still dealing with the fall out of her ill health. I had many rough moments, my brother attempting to pick a fight with me,  and  an answer to the question, should we resusitate her if… being the toughest two moments I had to deal with in the past year.

Truthfully  your health is your wealth,  protect it and ..

Laugh frequently.