ALWAYS breakfast time

1 Mar

On 5 August 2021 I wrote

I’ve not been doing a lot of stitching but enough to make progress. And to keep me well. You did realise that this is about my own self care as much as anything else didn’t you?

Yesterday evening was beautifully warm and the outdoor light is the best for embroidery. It’s also good for crochet and sometimes that’s what I want/need to do. I flit from project to project. Don’t judge me.

When mum’s health deteriorated one of her few remaining pleasures was good food. Her appetite did not diminish and she repeatedly told us that if we put it in front of her she would eat it. She also took pride in the fact she had taught her 3 children to cook so well. And now she benefited from our good cooking.

But one of the earliest symptoms of her dementia was a loss of connection with time. She never could tell what time of day it was. We bought her a dementia clock which helped for a while. But it was an old school method which worked best – putting a note next to her place at the table to tell her the rough time of day. Some days we joked that the fairies put out the notes for mum; other days she no longer believed the note, preferring to believe that it was ALWAYS breakfast time. Time for toast!

I lived next door to her, worked from home as much as I could, and made sure she had a good meal at lunchtime. Casseroles went back and forth from one house to the other. I developed a repertoire of meals that could be prepped early in the day and then cooked quickly and eaten in a lunch hour. I thought of writing a cookbook for carers. I still think of it.

We realised at some point that Mum needed some tasks. She’d stopped doing things of her own volition and was struggling with mobility. She spent much of her day just sitting (or so we thought) and was bored. I recalled her telling us as children that only boring people got bored. And Mum has never been boring.

Tasks for Mum included taking the meat off a roast chicken carcass and cutting up fruit to make a fruit salad.

As it happens I have only just this week got around to getting rid of Mum’s dementia clocks – she had two, and they have both gone to new homes via EBay. We unplugged them both in July 2021, when Mum went into a home after considering taking one to her new home, but deciding against it as she seemed less interested in what hour of the day it was, and certainly had lost all of the anxiety around this issue – perhaps because she now knew that she didn’t have to take responsibility for things, and that she could trust others to keep her to her ‘regime’.

Re-reading this post reminds me of when we were home, struggling to look after Mum, to keep her safe, and to reassure her that she was ok, that she was safe and loved and we would do the worrying for her.

Throughout our lives, Mum had been someone who would get things done. Not just little things, or a few things; one of her skills was making this look easy, this talent she had for getting things done, for bringing people together to make things happen. Like campaigning for bypasses for all the towns along the A75; or for the local school to be saved from closure.

So, it goes without saying that making a fruit salad was something she just did without even noticing she had done it, so instinctive and simple was it to her.

But in Spring 2021, it was different. Mum desperately wanted to feel useful, and as though she still could do some things. Making a fruit salad seemed like a relatively benign task that might be possible. Surely her muscle memory would kick in?

There are more steps in making a fruit salad than you might think, and Mum was only capable of one simple step at a time. She sat at her usual place at the table and we placed in front of her a board, for chopping; and on her left were various fruit; on her right the bowl in which to put the chopped fruit.

Mum was unable to navigate peeling fruit, her fingers were no longer nimble and actually she couldn’t understand what she was trying to do with them, what movement was required to make the thing happen that I was talking about, but which she didn’t really understand. I showed her, but she then accepted my offer to do that bit.

So I peeled apples and peaches, and cut then into large wedges and placed them on the board so she could cut them. I feared looking away for a moment while she had that sharp knife in her hand. More and more we were swapping roles in our lives – she was my child and I was looking after her.


This series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were slipping away, like me at a party I don’t want to be at.

Or if you feel like a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. Not sure there’s anything much that would make it to a Carer’s CookBook… but if you’re interested I will add some ideas for meals if you are caring for someone you love (and you both love good food!)

One Response to “ALWAYS breakfast time”


  1. Taking Smock of the Situation | Shewolfinthevalley - March 3, 2023

    […] ALWAYS Breakfast Time […]


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