My mother enjoying painting in her care home
Are you facing that decision? Should you go ahead a place your mother with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s/Dementia in a residential home? When is the right time? At what point do you decide?
I don’t know the answer for you, but I do know it is not as the result of the social worker’s questions re her ability to cook for herself, to wash herself or get lost in the street. It’s when you retch at the urine smelling lounge, the parcels of half masticated food or faeces found neatly arranged on the shelf. It’s when she reaches for the magnolia paint pot instead of the mayonnaise. It’s when your heart breaks when she shows you a photo of your father and asks, “Who is this?”
A month ago I had to make that decision. Three years previously the mental health nurse gently said, “I am sorry, your mother has Alzheimer’s” The same week the doctor quietly said, “Your father has terminal cancer.”
They had lived together for over 60 years and suddenly he was gone. His death seemed to accelerate my mother’s disease. She moved to be nearer us. Using the Contented Dementia approach was the way to go for us. I strongly believe it helped. So why was I considering it was time for a care home?
I can list the reasons I gave myself and others relating to my worsening health, the strain on the close family, the worry about what she understood, whether I’d interpreted correctly what she was trying to say and if we were making her life better or worse. Yet, I did not know the real reason until I had dropped her off in the care home and then came home and cried myself to sleep.
That reason is the one I am going to share with you now, as it might help someone else with the decision. I realise now I wanted my mother back. I wanted to have those memories I saw my other friends having with their elderly parents – going out for a relaxing lunch, having proper conversations, sharing hobbies, laughing at the same jokes. I, on the other hand, had become her personal carer, her shopper, her cleaner, her book keeper, her bill payer, her interpreter and her advocate when faced with misunderstanding, and oft rude, public. All these roles I did gladly and with love, but now I understand that all those demanding roles took away who I really was to her. I was her daughter who loved her for who she was, yet doing all the jobs that I had to do meant ‘her daughter, who loved her for who she really was’ was suffocating and lost.
Now when I visit her in the care home I feel refreshed and in love again with my mother. That might sounds strange and of course I always loved her, but now I spend ‘quality time’ with her. I enjoy going in and giving her aromatherapy hand massages. I enjoy sitting looking leisurely though photos and magazines with her. I enjoy singing Elvis songs and nursery rhymes with her. I have my mother back and she has me back.