Decifering Dementia – not a cycling related post #dementiaweek

Children grow up fast and the changes are so apparent when you don’t see them often. I noticed the same with my Mum, she lives in Cape Town, I live in London and with the cost of flying to a popular holiday destination the visits were always few and far between.

Being a “guest” in my own home meant Mum shipped me from pillar to post and would pick me up when I forgot the puncture repair kit on roads where thorns are a common problem.

We noticed small changes and put it down to “getting old” and I am sure many parents are the same, not wanting to worry children when they get lost or can’t remember where they are going.

On our said journey to pick me up at the side of the road, north of the beautiful Cape Town harbour, where the views of table mountain are breath taking, we journeyed along the only straight road back towards town. It was a road we had driven often. Mum got lost and couldn’t remember where she was.

These were the early warning signs of a disease that has robbed our Mum of her precious contents and left just the shell. Although we thought she was denying the fact, she was taking steps to secure her future and taking the burden off us as her children. Selling her house, finding a flat with a six monthly renewable lease, putting her name down at a care home and lastly, the most precious gift of all, a living will.

Unable to communicate with us now (I say us, when actually it is my youngest sister who sees her everyday) making the right decision is not left to individual preferences, but rather on defining how best to give Mum her choice of treatment. I cannot stress how grateful I am that Mum had the foresight to do this for us and only wish I could thank her.

As her condition worsened some of her decisions seemed irrational or lacking in the full truth, it would have been easy to get angry, especially not knowing she couldn’t remember what she had said or agreed to. Don’t get angry, start observing with a rational brain.

Seeing these early warning signs is clue that soon you’ll have to step up to the plate. Seeing the late warning signs may need the help of an impartial third party. We chose Mum’s doctor as the person to break the news to her that it was time to move into the care home. As the sole person looking out for Mum, my younger sister has done an amazing job and I was grateful this was a burden she didn’t have to carry.

It is Dementia Week here in the UK and I wanted to highlight the value of getting your parents to define their choice of care and the specifics around what that care involves. Mum, for instance, has chosen no outside assistance and we were very fortunate to find a care home who shares her wishes.

We can sleep happy knowing she is cared for in the manner she chose.

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