Sunday Morning…

Sunday morning. Ella my cat is hell bent on getting me up does everything she can. She learns quickly, anything that irritates me will get me up to stop her. Licking my face, touching me with her paw; claws out – but gently. That gave me a bacterial eye infection. My arms have strange scratches that I don’t remember getting but know the culprit. She never does anything maliciously, I believe that there is not a bad bone in her body. She is a delightful, loving companion, but she likes to be fed at her own times. She can gently touch my face, and oh so quietly, meows close to my ear. She starts chewing things, pushing things knowing that it will exact a response from me.
No Ella. I say to her.
She will move on to something else. What is there that she can chew on the bedside table. Oh there is the necklace hanging on the bedpost, it is made of seeds brought back for me from the Caribbean ten years ago. Nutmeg and all kinds of fragrant seeds that I love to smell when I go to sleep. She will chew it a bit then leave it, most distasteful for a cat!
Next she moves..on..to…the…emergency….cord…………… ORANGE LIGHT FLASHING, BEEP BEEP BEEP… OMG she has managed to pull the cord and called an emergency. For goodness sake Ella what have you done!
Beep, Beep, Beep…
“Hello, you have an emergency?”
“Sorry, Sorry, my cat decided to wake me up by pulling the cord”
“No emergency, you are ok?”
“Yes Yes I am fine. Sorry about my cat”
“Ok then”
“Bye”
I made Ella wait for her breakfast after securing the cord out of reach. It will not happen again 🙂

Dementia: Witnessing release is a comfort

blue_irises_by_naglets-d2yie11I am watching my Mum slowly succumb to her dementia daily, but it feels like I am seeing it from the inside.  I don’t know how to describe this so you can understand.  I am invisible in a room full of people, Gill has dementia so do we include her or not?  Am I the only one who is experiencing this feeling of when this is my turn, because you may not get dementia.

My Mother’s name was Iris, and like the flower she was a very complex person.

It was Sunday 14th June, our family had somehow managed not to avoid each other and all visited my mother together.  So, my Dad, my Brother and Sister-in-law, Sister and Brother-in-law, nieces and my daughter were in my Mothers room at the nursing home.  The rift in the family growing wider and wider with my sister and her family on one side fighting some bizarre war in her head with us all, and everyone else at ease with each other on the other side.  My Dad torn in two in the middle  My Mum lying between us, her breathing ragged but looking peaceful as she is in her final hours.  She does not seem aware that anyone is with her, but I believe she can hear us all and knows that for the first time in years we are all in the same room together.  We spent the day chatting about our memories, listening to some music, and talking generally amongst ourselves.  My mother may not have appeared conscious enough to join in, but it felt like it was normal family get together with people chatting and laughing and I am sure she was with us.

We had the call later that evening to say she had passed peacefully away at 10.34 pm.  I believe she had waited until we were all together.

I cherish having visited her every day the weeks at the end.  My daughter and I played her favourite hymns on her iPhone and watched her tears.  We played her favourite music and sang along (out of tune but no matter it was fun).

She was no longer able to swallow, so she had no food for weeks, and finally she could no longer have liquids.  Every day the nurse and doctor would say “it won’t be long now, she may pass tonight”, and the next day there she would be defiantly showing she was not ready to go.  Fourteen days she continued without any liquid, and everyone was amazed by her stubbornness, and strength of character to fight to stay with us.

One of the nurses sat down with me and explained how they knew she was not in any pain, at the end I don’t think she was, before I am still not sure.  Her death was natural without any pain relief so I am sure she was aware of her last day with us all.  Yes, I can now see that perhaps it is easier for us to want her to be given pain relief just in case, but then it could have changed her perception of her final hours.  So have I been wrong?    No; my view now is that a small amount of morphine ‘as and when’ may have been better when the sores were painful.  But, then at the end when she had no pain = nothing.

The carers thought she was lucky they said, most people never have visitors.

I designed and created the Order of Service on my laptop, and my brother had it printed up.    We found a poem that my mother had cut out and stuck in her book and I read that at her funeral.  We had no flowers apart from a single spray that lay across the coffin from the family; blue irises and white – roses, chrysanthemums and others.  Instead of flowers my Dad wanted donations to ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH UK if people wished.   Thank you Dad x

She is gone

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Written: 1981 David Harkins 1959 -Silloth, Cumbria, UK

(This is also the poem that the Queen chose to be read at her mother, the Queen Mother’s funeral which is why my Mum loved it as she was a staunch royalist)

I am glad I had time to make my peace with my Mum, I am glad I had time to sit with her, talk to her and be back in my family.  I am glad I witnessed the end of her dementia, it has left me feeling comforted with my own dementia.

A new chapter with my family now begins.  I need to visit my Dad on a more frequent basis to support him, and do my part in taking care of him to stop my sister from mentally ‘abusing’ him.    This scares me because staying strong and being capable takes more effort than I think people realise.  Still, it’s what we do isn’t it?

My first week in my new home

Think I have overdone the unpacking, sorting and painting of furniture this week and slept most of yesterday!

Things are sorted out in my new flat and looking nice and I am now getting used to living alone again.    I have noticed as I have been trying to organise new Doctors, Opticians and the like, how on a good day I am more than capable, on a wobbly day, I can be a bit befuddled.   I know that I need to keep in check my awareness of making good decisions, because I know that at some time that I will become less able to take the right one.   I need help putting my new TV together (putting the stand together and setting it up), but am so aware that I must be careful about who I go to for help.  I do not have the strength to screw the stand together so a handy man should be able to do that, but who do I know who to choose?   These are real worries.

I have talked to my bank and thankfully they are fully ‘dementia aware trained’ and was given some excellent advice as to how to manage my money safely.   Thank you and well done NATWEST Bank!

I have painted my new (second hand) furniture with chalk paint and am well pleased with how they have been transformed.  My pictures are up, and almost all of the boxes are empty.

I have finally managed to settled down to begin reading again, my absolute pleasure!

I follow a blog by Pippa Kelly and she writes about “Dementia Friendly.  What does it really mean?”   (click the title which is the link to take you there) which is spot on.   I love how she questions what it means and then shows us by recounting it in action.

For us who are living with dementia, wearing a badge, proclaiming you are dementia friendly is not enough if you have no idea how to implement it.   It means, writing things down for us, giving us clear instructions, signposting clearly and  repeating everything.   I always comment that I may look as if I will remember or understand everything, but that is a mistake to make, because in reality I will not remember what you said, or your instructions.

I am resting up this weekend and doing some more reading as my head is not ready to take on the world quite yet.

Dementia: Changes afoot

I have been a bit absent of late.  Sorry for that.  Please forgive me if you have commented and I haven’t responded.   Major changes in my life right now.

I have just signed a tenancy agreement for a ‘compact but bijou’ flat in Newbury where I will be moving early next month.

Going it alone.

Have been stressed beyond reason at times, trying to sort out some new accommodation, but have just spent a week of total relaxtion with my daughter in London.  Ok I know that seems an incongruous with peace and calm but trust me it was.    I have made phone calls, sent emails then lost myself in mindless tv programmes on SKY to recover!

Moving to a new town where I know nobody, not even the town itself is quite daunting but is a new adventure for me.   I am moving into Sheltered Housing, to a Studio Flat in a building which is right on a river.  I can see the river from my window so it   is good.  Water is important to me and I happy to be near it.

Today I signed the tenancy agreement, caught a bus into the town and walked around.  Its nice.  I will like it here.  Then in a year’s time I will apply to transfer to another property in London near my daughter.    For now though an hour’s train journey is the closest I can get to be near her.   This is my future.

My sole furniture is:  one recliner chair and stool, an old pine bookcase, an old pine tv table both which I will upcycle with some nice paint.    I have no:  fridge, cooker, bed.    Who cares!

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you wish the would.   Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s was a major trauma. and not just for me.   There is no point in being angry at people who you thought could cope.  People are individual, some can deal with things like this, some can’t.  No blame.

Now, I am about to try start again.

Next post I will talk about how I have found support and help from the services who promote their services.

What is Dementia Friends? – I attend a talk

I received an email which said one word “Interested?”.   It was information about a talk being given at the Derby Women’s Centre about Dementia Friends (find out more here) which is an initiative with the government and Alzheimer’s Society.

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Should I go?  Then I realised that although I knew about Dementia Friends I didn’t really know what to expect of them so decided this would be a good time to find out.

There were a good mix of people there, and I introduced myself to the speaker.   Sorry but I can’t remember her name – I am not good with names, the whole world should start wearing badges with their names on!

She was pleased that I was attending and asked if I minded talking about my own experiences, which of course I didn’t.

What an excellent morning it turned out to be.  The talk was tremendously appropriate and informative.  I can see why they are so important to be spread across Britain – everyone should have the opportunity in taking part in one.

A Dementia Friend is someone who has learnt what living with Dementia can mean to people.  Everybody has a different experience but it is important to treat everyone with the same positiveness of what they can do rather than why you think they can’t do.  Never assume someone has less capabilities than they may have.

I was asked lots of questions about how I live with it, and was able to answer about how I experience my own cognitive difficulties.   It was great to meet these people and learn about the Derby Women’s Centre.  I hope to pop in again sometime.

This was my first time in public talking to strangers about myself living with Alzheimer’s and I think they were surprised because the image is always someone who is elderly and in the later stages of the disease.

How did this make me feel being there?

It was great to learn more about what education is available to everyone regardless of who you are, where you work, age, race or religion.  Dementia has no cultural specifics, and how we educate the world should be in the same manner.   I felt like I could contribute something positive, and show that life for me good.  My glass is half full not half empty!   I felt the warmth and interest of the people there and they reached out to me.  Lovely 🙂

Review of my Alzheimer’s of 2014

Looking back on last year I think I have become more settled with myself. I am very proactive in looking for solutions for difficulties I have and not worrying too much if I don’t find a solution. Here are some things I think might help for people with dementia.

• I use a calendar to record everything, (as much as I remember) even writing on the notes section when on the phone and recording information I know I will forget after the phone call.
• A blackboard in the kitchen is vital when I run out of something as I write it down immediately, and photograph the board when I go shopping.

There are lots of ways to help yourself when you have dementia, and also to help others who are living with the disease. I found a great idea recently when I was reading a crime thriller. Yes, really! The main character had brain trauma which affected her short term memory, so she started to develop strategies to help build a memory database by using her mobile phone to photograph everyday things and writing a description. For instance:

new doctor: photo+name.
New appointment: take a picture of the building and label it so you can see where you have been.

How many times have we been to an appointment or an event somewhere and not been able to remember the building, or even match the building with a person who I am seeing. I get confused with who is where, and who is what service! Yes it’s an easy mistake to make but when you keep making them it gets kind of stressy. Taking a photo of the building and the person could make things easier – obviously you’d have to ask their permission to do a mug shot.

What other challenges have I met last year? Well, it has been a tough time for both my husband and I coming to terms with my diagnosis. However, he has been trying very hard to understand when I repeat something, or to explain when I can’t understand a simple sentence without getting irritated. It takes the patience of a saint when someone with dementia is constantly asking what you mean because they can’t process what you have said.

I am trying to do as much as I can to keep myself mentally healthy. Okay I know the day will come when I am unable to keep my own control on everything but hopefully I can have a good number of years before that happens.

Getting things sorted is getting harder. As you might know from my book review blog I receive books from publishers, read them and write reviews, easy right? Say what I like about a book – no sweat.  Wrong: even though I know why I liked a book putting it down in words gets harder and harder. Firstly I have to motivate myself to start writing, next comes my thoughts, but that’s where I have to really push myself. I love writing, I love words, and I love books, so why does my brain become tongue-tied when I attempt to write it for the publisher?   This really is hard work for me but I will not give in, my encouragement is the odd email from a Publisher or an Author thanking me for my honest detailed review.

Travel – I no longer have my driving licence, and I miss it like anything. Could have I carried on driving? Possibly, but really my attention is not always great now so I would rather be safe on the road than sorry that I caused an accident. I am now becoming a train and bus traveller – alone I might add! You bet I am terrified before I travel, and stressed whilst I am travelling, but so proud that can still do it.
I have downloaded a LIST app to my phone and put in every detail of my travel details, departures, arrivals, times, places, other information etc etc.
So far it has worked. Travelling to London and then across via the underground can stress out even the most season traveller, but I have learnt to be single minded follow my instructions. If, like my last journey, all the trains ceased to run out of any of the stations I was travelling from, I managed to negotiate with any official looking person in a Network Rail/British Rail uniform on which train I should be. Oh yes – bring it on (actually it was really stressful but I did it). A simple journey is no longer simple – see my last post.

Next
Socialising – I find myself wanting to be in large groups of people less and less. I might of want to be with groups of friends before, but now it somehow fills me with apprehension. What has changed? Too many people means I can’t always process what people are saying, combined with the fact that I don’t always get jokes. When everyone is laughing because someone has said something funny and I have no idea why, it can leave me feeling outside of the ‘group’.
Hearing – I am finding it hard to process what people are saying, even though what they are saying might not be complicated. Also, if more than one person is speaking I have absolutely nil chance of hearing one voice! One person speak at a time please. I am no longer willing to meet people in pubs anymore because there is too much noise for me to hear only one voice. It is like being deaf in a sea of noise.
Vision – Definitely need several different glasses but doesn’t everybody as they age. Some days when I read the lines on the pages are wavy, or they get smaller on one side which is to do with my Alzheimer’s. Or sometimes I cannot understand the sentences on the page and have to stop reading.  My perspective is worse I believe. I can look up a road and not be able to work out the perspective of the street, houses and pavements are. Another reason I don’t drive now.
Memory – Apparently goldfishes have more than a 7 second memory, unlike myself at times! I think my memory remains in the same state thankfully, somethings I am ok with, some things I have no memory of. I recently received a copy of a letter from my consultant Neurologist, with information that I agreed to phone her after six weeks of our appointment to discuss my medication. I have no memory of that conversation so obviously I haven’t yet phoned!
Communication: I met an online community of people living with Dementia who have inspired me to try and get involved in bringing awareness to the realities of living with this disease. That is my most significant undertaking ever. So roll on 2015 when it starts.

The thing I have learnt the most is that I STILL CAN attempt to do anything I feel able to do, but I don’t beat myself up when I fail.

Travelling with Azheimer’s

So, I travelled to London to stay with my daughter for Christmas.  A one hour journey with one change which went well I got to Euston fine.  No sweat.  Next – two tube journeys to meet my daughter.

No problem eh?  First tube was ok, I started to feel a bit anxious but the instructions were clear, get the Victoria line Northbound.  Just follow the signs.. and yes I got on the right underground train.  I alighted at Highbury and Islington and had to get on the overground to New Cross Gate.  I couldn’t see the map on the top of the wall to see where we were, and started to worry that I was on the wrong train.  What if I was on a train going in the opposite direction?  My anxiety levels started to increase.  I was no longer sure about what train I was on.  This should be so easy, I have the directions on my phone as a list.  But can I be sure the list and the train I am on is the same?  The feeling of anxiety is heightened even though I am trying hard to convince myself to calm down; I am on the correct train.

Once upon a time I would take all this in my stride, no stress, on the wrong train – no problem just get on another tube in the right direction.  Sadly now that is a harder option because I am no longer confident in trying to sort out where I need to be.

I am well aware that I am at a very High End Functioning end of Alzheimers/Dementia  – thank goodness.  Keep going like this for as long as I can.

Anyway, I got there fine and we had a very nice time, nothing special, nothing racy, just quiet and normal.  We cooked a wonderful dinner together, we watched Disney films:  Frozen, Brave etc.. lovely!

And then……we just remained cosy and normal for Christmas days.  Eating, drinking (not too much) watching TV, chilling, sleeping..etc, just the relaxing time you would want for the holiday period.

Journey back:  just hell

No trains back from Euston.  Various routes:  but mainly from Marylebone – via Banbury/etc etc..  I had negotiate my ticket on the train because I was not on the Midland Mainline.  I had a change at Birmingham Moor Street with a walk to Birmingham New Street.  Sorry but I could not contemplate trying to find my way to New Street Station so i called Mr Hsg and he picked me up from Moor Street Station.

Phew, anxiety breakdown averted.  I feel so good that I did it.

I used to be able to go anywhere without much trouble, if there were challenges to work out the route – no problem.  Just find the destination and work it out.  These days I plan, I write out the plan, I get anxious that the plan is not working.  But, right now I can make it.

When you think of someone making a simple journey difficult, think hard.

A simple bus journey that you and they have always done, suddenly becomes the most complicated journey ever.  Don’t expect a person with Dementia to be able to negotiate a simple journey like they used to.  Written instructions may have no meaning, memories of the journey may be lost.  Do not assume that because they did the journey before, they can do it again.

Fortunately, I am still at a stage where I can phone people who I know can help me when I get confused.  But the time will come when I am no longer able to make that simple train journey on my own,

Before you assume your loved one can travel the same as they have always travelled, ask them if they still feel able to do so in the same way.  Do they feel confident? Has anyone written out their route for them?   Is there anyone who can meet them?

When I can no longer travel alone, who will be willing to accompany me to where I want to go?

These are the things that need to be thought of in Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Just thinking……………………..