Tag Archives: dementia

I bought a vase

10 May

On 25 June 2021 I posted:

I bought a vase.

I filled it with peonies from Mum’s garden.

The vase was made by a local potter, Tom Lochhead. Mum had known him, and he had inspired and encouraged Mum to start her own wee business making sculptures of domestic animals from clay. She owned a few of his pieces – a small jug and also a crocus bowl, both of which she has given to me in recent years when all Mum’s Christmas and birthday gifts have been things from the house that she was trying to get rid of.

Since buying that vase, nearly a year ago, a few other pieces have found their way into my possession… including the beautiful bowl above, and several other vases. No doubt in coming years, I will follow Mum’s lead and give them away to people as Christmas and birthday gifts. Meanwhile, I get such joy from picking a few sprigs in the garden and having a wee vase of flowers on my desk.

But, back to 25 June 2021… that afternoon I sent a message to a friend: I have switched off Mum’s Rayburn. .. I cried a wee bit but in a good way.

That Rayburn. It was the physical beating heart of our home, an extension of Mum’s love and warmth all my life. I learned to cook at the Rayburn. Our big ginger cat jumped onto the hot plate of the Rayburn when it was a kitten and PROING! immediately jumped up and off like a cartoon kitten when it realised it was HOT. Dad’s supper was always left ‘in the bottom oven’ back in the day when he was travelling back and forth from Edinburgh, and would always arrive some hours after we had eaten our supper. Meringues cooked like a dream in that slow bottom oven. You could make your own yoghurt overnight, using the gentle background warmth to keep the culture happy. I never really learned about timings when making a meal, as everything could be kept ‘on the side of the Rayburn’ to keep warm once it was ready. The oven in the Rayburn is most forgiving, making perfect roasts, warming stews and light cakes. Of course there was also that Christmas when we put the turkey in the Rayburn at breakfast time, only to notice at coffee time that the temperature had not come up. It had run out of oil, and would not be cooking our Christmas dinner that day.

In recent months, I had been reacquainting myself with the quirks of cooking with a Rayburn. It was a delight to take a slightly slower approach to making all our meals. Weekends were for batch cooking stews, casseroles and soups, sometimes a roast on Sundays. And through the week, the Rayburn would gladly reheat those batch-cooked meals from the freezer, so we could easily enjoy our main meal of the day at lunch time, and I could still get some paid work done.

It was impossible not to cloak the switching off of the Rayburn with meaning. But even without my default setting of overthinking and over-analysis of the situation, it was just heart-wrenchingly sad to lock the door of Mum’s house behind me, knowing that next time I opened that door all the warmth would have gone from her home.

At this point I think perhaps we knew that she might have left that home forever, although we were still fighting to find ways for her to come home when she was able.

(As an update to the last post, I did not get the job. It was handled incredibly badly and I regretted applying for it. It totally knocked my confidence for a while. However, the candidate who got the role is now a great colleague and I realise that however capable I was of doing that job, I know I did not have the headspace to persuade anyone else of that at the time. Since then I have thought a lot about work, and what I want out of it… and I have far better clarity now around how important (or not) my work is to me. It is no longer a key part of my identity, my social life does not revolve around it and it is not where I am inspired and learn and feel myself growing.. but I am lucky in that I am finding other ways to find that fulfilment. Work enables me to focus on what is important to me, and that feels very liberating.)

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

The new temporary normal

24 Mar

On 22 June 2021 I posted the following:

After several frantic days we have now settled into a new temporary normal.

Mum is still in DGRI, but is getting stronger and each day she seems a wee bit closer to independence and being able to come home. My brother and I each do half day visits so she has company most of the day and over mealtimes – the company is so important to her, as the dementia means she can feel quite lost. And today, although we’re not technically allowed to bring in flowers, we brought one wee sweet smelling rose from her garden. Such power in that wee flower.

And this morning I headed down to the beach with my smock and reminded myself how to do French Knots. The muscle memory was there, and for a while there was just me, and the sea and our memories.

I really appreciate everyone who has sent messages or been in touch or made donations. Thank you a million times. If you want to provide support for people living with dementia click the link.

Being by the sea restored me.

I only have to think of that beach and I am restored. I can smell the briney sea, hear the rhythm of the waves, the birds, and the wind, always a wind down there by the edge of the land.

We were, at this stage, preparing for Mum’s return home, and as well as some gentle crafting by the sea I also had to be home to wait in for the Care Call Engineer, to fit a pressure pad under Mum’s mattress, so we (and the agency) would get an alarm if Mum was out of bed for more than, say, 20 minutes through the night.

It’s just as well it was around midsummer and the days were as long as they were, because there was much to do.

It was a hospital day, so I’d make the one and half hour round trip, and try to spend quality time with Mum; and there was a new role at work that I felt I should apply for – it was a ‘sister’ role to my own, but more focused on one type of fundraising, instead of the role I held which was split across two teams and (to me at least) no longer made much sense. The role had been advertised externally and I had been hesitant to apply – I knew I was not in a particularly good place and feared that I did not have the resources to perform well at interview. If I got this new role, it would be worth it. But if I didn’t, I couldn’t imagine that I would even want to stay in my current role.

Fortunately (in some ways) I’d had to apply for my own job about a year previously, when the fixed term contract was made permanent, so I had some paragraphs I could cut and paste for this new role. But, of course, the application form had been ‘updated’ and there were new questions… ‘What are the challenges of remote working in this role and how would you address them?’ ‘Please give examples of work you have undertaken that demonstrates our Commitments of Communication, Collaboration, Consideration and Change’. I’ll be honest, those commitments had been rolled out some 2 or 3 years previously, with all staff sent a weeny wee leaflet listing the four commitments and what was meant by each one. But since then, I’d seen no mention of them. Ever. So it slightly surprised me that it was something we now recruited against.

In the past I would have told Mum about going for the new role, would have known that she might not have understood why I was so unsure about it, but just having her listen to me, and wishing me luck, and telling me that she would give me the job if she had it within her power. That would have been a comfort, would have given me some of the strength and energy to go for it.

Instead it felt like something I had to do, it was a chore. If I didn’t apply, it demonstrated that I was not interested in progression (I now realise that actually I’m not, and that’s ok). I had been encouraged by my line manager to go for it. I wanted it.

Anyway… I did it. A good friend helped me polish the final application, and edited out ‘some of the snark’, which was definitely necessary. And then, later, she reminded me that I had to submit it by 10pm, or else she would submit it on my behalf. I was relieved to press the send button, and hopeful that I could make positive change to my somewhat unsatisfactory role at work.

But honestly, the only thing I really cared about was getting Mum home.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

Selfie with a Beltie

22 Mar

On 18 June 2021 I posted:

There are probably loads of hashtags that those nice folk at the Royal Highland Show would like me to use here. But I didn’t see them. So it’s just me and the NHS rainbow beltie.

#beltie#BeltieGalloway#ProudGallovidian

I could write so much about Mum’s stay at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, but I’m really struggling to find the right words. And to be honest, I am struggling to recall exactly how it was, how things developed. My brain has done the sensible thing and is reluctant to let me re-live the detail of that time.

Looking back at messages between myself and my brothers, in those first days we were eagerly trying to work with the consultant and the other staff in the hospital to establish what we needed to do to get Mum home when it was safe to do so. There was no sense at all of timescale, nor of what criteria they would use to decide when she might be able to go home. There was, though, mention of Mum potentially staying in a cottage hospital for a while to transition between hospital and home. There was a super cottage hospital at Kirkcudbright, just 7 miles from home. But it was closed due to the Covid pandemic. We were already of the view that anything would be better than an orthopaedic ward in a large modern hospital where they seemed not to be set up to cope with a patient’s dementia. But there didn’t seem to be many options for us. In fact, initially, no other options, other than Mum staying at DGRI a bit longer.

Due to Covid, Mum was only allowed two designated visitors (and preferably only one at a time, and only one visit per day, as I recall), so my brother and I took turns, with one of us visiting one day, and the other the following day. The journey took about 45 minutes each way. We were allowed to stay with her for as long as we wanted, and after some negotiation, they conceded that we could spend time with Mum, then take a break downstairs and then return on the same day. Seeing Mum out of her familiar world for the first time in years, was heartbreaking. We can both confirm that it is possible to drive all the way home from the hospital, crying all the way.

Generally we would aim to be there over a mealtime. Mum’s right arm was in a stookie (that’s Scots for a plaster) and so she was unable to use her right hand, nor could she use her arms to push herself out of a chair if she needed to get up (for instance to go to the loo). She also was unable to use her ‘dancing partner’, the 4-wheeled walking frame that she needed to give her enough stability to be mobile.

On my second visit, I passed a nurse in the vast corridor as I walked down to Mum’s room. I asked her how Mum was, and was told that she was ok, but that she wasn’t really hungry, she’d left most of her lunch.

It was true, Mum had left most of her lunch. But not because she wasn’t hungry.

Mum had left most of her lunch because she was unable to eat it. She only had the use of one hand. She could not cut things up, she could not open plastic packets of cheese or of biscuits. She could not spread butter from a small fiddly packet on bread. A few months earlier Mum might have asked for help, or at least told someone of her difficulties. But Mum with dementia was not able to articulate her difficulties. And she did not want to be a bother to anyone, so she stayed silent, she just agreed with the nurse who cheerily enquired if Mum was not hungry after all.

This was not a place where Mum could thrive. I wondered if she could even survive there. She was desperately unhappy and just wanted to get back home.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

Marmite on toast

17 Mar

On 20 June 2021 I posted:

I’m back after a few days hiatus.

Mum broke her wrist on Tuesday and is still in hospital. The last few days have been filled with journeys to and from hospital, with upsetting visits where it’s clear the pressures on staff mean only the basic care is possible, with packing baskets of delights to improve mum’s stay – you would be amazed how powerfully marmite on toast says ‘I love you’ – with hatching escape plans for mum, with trying to work out what is the next step. Mum wants to be at home. It’s what we all want.

Mum loved marmite on toast. And she was VERY specific about how she liked it.

The toast had to be well cooked (verging on burnt if you ask me, and she would be quite happy if it was properly burnt). Once the toast was cooked, it should be left in the toaster (or in a toast rack if you have one) to cool, so it doesn’t go flabby. Wait till it’s really cold, and you’ll find that it goes nice and crispy. At this stage you can wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in your basket, with a small pot of butter (real butter, not a spread), a jar of marmite and a knife.

Once at the hospital, I’d butter the toast (ensuring the butter was spread evenly and to the very edges, not a single gap of unbuttery toast) and then spread a smearing of marmite across it all. Then cut into either fingers, or tiny bites… to be honest if the toast is crispy enough, as you try to cut it into fingers it will shatter into shards.,

This was Mum’s absolute treat. And early on in her stay we discovered that she was the only person in the hospital eating toast, as no toasters were allowed in the building (a fire hazard evidently). Mum delighted in telling us every day how the consultant had eyed up her toast and that next time she came round Mum would offer to share it with her.

It was becoming clear that Mum could not live at home independently while she had a cast on her arm, but it was far from clear what the ideal solution could be. Staying in this hospital was not it. Individual nurses were kind enough, but it was clear they were over worked, and after over a year of Covid, they were nearly broken. It felt like the system itself was already broken, but more on that another time.

Mum was in a large room on her own, she was unable to move about without help. She was allowed no other visitors apart from my brother and I, and when we were not there, she just sat in her room on her own, listening to the screams of the woman along the corridor, “Help me! Help me! ….. Heeeeelp! Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” We had taken in some magazines, and I noticed that she only ever looked over the same couple of pages – her eyesight was failing and I suspect that an impact of her dementia was that she couldn’t really retain what she was reading. At home she would have listened to a radio, but we weren’t allowed to bring one in. She was not able to work out how to access the screen on the wall, and the television was of little interest to her anyway.

For the moment, my life took on a new rhythm – one day I would set off to the hospital by mid morning, and would have a coffee with Mum while she had her toast. I’d stay with her while she had lunch, and help her to eat it. Then I would make excuses and leave for a while, usually spending an hour sitting outside at the hospital with a coffee and my embroidery. After my break, I’d head back up to see Mum again for a couple of hours before heading back to Gatehouse, where my brother was. The next day, my brother would do the hospital run, and I would try to do a day’s work, despite my head being all over the place. We cooked good meals for one another, we tried to keep our loved ones up to date on how Mum was, and tried to think about what the future might hold, tried to work out which bits were within our control, or that we could influence. Honestly, we had no idea.

We had a phone call on the second or third evening that Mum was there. It was a nurse from the ward who said that Mum needed to speak to us. Mum was terribly distressed, just wanted to come home, said she needed us to come and pick her up straight away so she could get home. It was heartbreaking. She sort of knew she couldn’t come home, but as much as she knew it, she also did not understand it.

With hindsight, bad as it seemed at the time, I think it was worse than we realised. This was an elderly, vulnerable woman, with dementia, who was not able to articulate her own needs. My brother and I were legally her welfare attorneys, but had to fight to be included in any decisions that were being made. Her arm had needed to be treated, and now there was nothing more that an orthopaedic ward could do for her. And they were unable to cope with her dementia. What she needed was what used to be called a convalescence home… she needed care, and help, but actually what we felt she needed most was the company of friends (or kind strangers would do) and to be reminded that she was loved and that we would do what we could to keep her safe.

We were still fixated on getting Mum home. It was all she wanted too.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got here, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

S L O W

11 Mar

Day 16

On 16 June 2021, the 16th day of my 100 Day Project, I posted one line, and one picture.

Slow progress on this deliciously slow project.

But actually, sometimes making real progress doesn’t seem transformative from one day to the next, but over time, that slow and steady change adds up. So, appreciate the days when not much happens, when it all feels a bit “same as, same as”… on the days when everything changes you’ll be grateful for the resilience you created for yourself on those quieter days.

Everything had changed overnight. Everything for me, but more so for Mum.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

Happiness has no history

4 Mar

On day 14 of my 100 Days Project in June 2021 I posted:

I’m back home in the Valley for a few days ‘respite’. I hate calling it that, but I also recognise it’s what I need.

The smock is draped over our stable door.. I might get to doing some stitching before bedtime, but if not, I’ll not beat myself up.

Your bonus pic is Mum and Dad just after they moved into the house mum still lives in. Look at their happiness!

You’d like to know how they met wouldn’t you? Well Mum was working in the local gift shop. At Christmas Dad dropped in to the shop to buy cards and gifts, to send to his family back in Germany. He only bought one card that first day. Then came back the next day to buy another. And again the following day.

Reader, they married the following Spring.

I love how happy Mum and Dad look in this picture. To be honest it’s not really how I remember them – they weren’t particularly demonstrative as a couple, and when I think back to childhood I feel a sense of stability and contentment, rather than love or passion. I mean, I always knew I was loved, though it was never actually stated. That came much later. And now it gives me such pleasure to sit with Mum and let her know how loved she is, she always has been.

I saw her today in my lunch hour. It’s less than a year since she was diagnosed, and how she has changed, how her life has changed. I guess we all have, but it is more stark with Mum.

Today she was sad, and she doesn’t know why she is sad, and that makes her distressed. I let her know that we don’t always need a reason to be sad, sometimes we just are. And I also talked about how all her life she’s been happy, and she was able to do things that gave her happiness – painting, reading, gardening, cooking, sculpting, being with friends and family. And now all those things that made her happy aren’t possible any more, so perhaps it’s harder to be happy. I realise that didn’t feel very hopeful, and I did wonder if it meant she will always be sad now. That would break my heart. But honestly, I don’t want to minimise what she is feeling, nor do I want to pretend there is an easy solution. And Mum has always, always claimed that she has never been depressed, so I can only imagine how scary it is for her to feel sad and to not understand why. And I don’t know, perhaps she can’t remember when she was happy? That would be tragic.

Make the most of your happiness if you have it. And tell your loved ones how much they are loved. Fill them up with all that warmth straight from your heart – the feeling will stay with them far longer than the memories of what you had for lunch today.

This series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation. Head there if you want to catch up on how we got to this point.

And finally, dementia is confusing and distressing.. for the person with dementia and those around them. My wish is that nobody with dementia should go through it alone. Click on this link if you’d like to support Alzheimer Scotland and to help make this true. Thank you.

Threading a needle

2 Mar

Back in June 2021, on day 13 of the 100 Days Project, life continued quietly. I posted the following:

This bud is not yet how I want it to be, but it’ll get there. I hope.

Time spent quietly stitching while I sat with Mum was peaceful today. My gentle sewing seemed to calm her. I felt calmer too, but also dog tired and in need of new glasses. I remember being horrified that mum needed my help to thread a needle when I was wee. Why couldn’t she do it? How could she not see the eye of that needle? How I wish I had an 11 year old here now to thread my embroidery silks. Or perhaps I should just buy a needle threader?

Your bonus pic today is from the 80s – I’m with Mum on Cardoness Beach. I’m wearing her old leather jacket which I loved till it fell to pieces. How I wish I’d mended it!

I’d been on my own with Mum for the week, and was tired, so very very tired. My working days were interspersed with visits from District Nurses, and with checking to see Mum was ok, occasionally helping her to the loo in between work online meetings. As Mum’s dementia took hold, I found that I was trying to think for her as well as for me, trying to anticipate what she might want or need. It was exhausting. It was clearly exhausting for her too, trying so very hard to be ok. I reassured her so often that we were there to keep her safe, to look after her, and because we loved her. But still she would need that reassurance, most days.

We knew that what we had in place, with carers most mornings and evenings, was not sustainable, but it was impossible to secure more carers – Galloway was at capacity, no-one was available. We had discussed looking at care homes, but Mum had always said that she wanted to stay at home, for as long as she could, that really she wanted to die there. And it was what we wanted too, we couldn’t imagine her surviving anywhere else, and certainly not thriving. We all had very negative views of care homes. I had never actually set foot in one, and it felt like it would be a betrayal of Mum to consider moving her into one. We took each day at a time, and had been putting things in place as and when we recognised what additional support was needed… but each time, as we put the support in place, things moved and changed so rapidly that we already needed to think of the next level of support. I wanted to hire a dementia planner, a bit like a wedding planner, but for an altogether different stage of life.

My brother and sister in law arrived that evening, and the following day I was heading back home for a few days ‘respite’. I hated that term, but knew that I needed it so very badly. I packed some things, mostly just the fisherman’s smock and some work stuff, ready to head home early the next morning.

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation.

And finally, dementia is confusing and distressing.. for the person with dementia and those around them. My wish is that nobody with dementia should go through it alone. Click on this link to help make this true. Thank you, a thousand thank yous.

Un-sewing

28 Feb

On day 12 of the 100 Day Challenge, I posted a second picture, with the following text:

I spent a few blissful minutes in the sun this afternoon sewing.

Later I decided to un-sew the detail in the second picture and to try doing that flower bud another way. All that un-sewing felt too much like a metaphor for life at the moment.

I will be aided in my next steps by an embroidery book gifted to me by my grandmother when I was a bairn.

As ever, please click on the link in my bio to learn more about this project and why it means so much to me.

I loved sitting outside in the sunshine, gently stabbing at fabric with my embroidery threads. I wasn’t much enjoying this particular bit of embroidery though – I could not get the threads to look how I wanted them to. But, it was a good reminder that this wasn’t ever going to be a sampler showing perfected examples of lots of different embroidery techniques. It was more of a sketch book, a gentle throwing down of thoughts, of memories, of love. With hindsight, it feels so very filled with gratitude. I really am so incredibly grateful to have the mother that I do, to be her daughter.

Looking back, it wasn’t all embroidery in the sunshine in June 2021.

Mum, a week or two earlier had started to say that she felt useless, that she had nothing to do, she was clearly bored.

As children, during the long summer holidays, if one of us ever uttered the phrase “I’m BORED”, back would come the retort: “Only boring people get bored”. It was such a put down. We might not have known exactly what we wanted to do or be when we grew up, but we were all clear that we did not want to be BORING. To this day, we will all respond with “Only boring people get bored” if ever someone even suggests they might be bored.

Anyway, back to Mum, who was bored. But how to deal with this? We couldn’t just laugh it off and tell her only boring people get bored. Her eyesight had deteriorated to the extent she could not read any more; she was unable to focus on an audio book; she could not manage even relatively simple tasks, such as making soup, she was frail and unable to walk anywhere without the support of her walker (also known as her Dancing Partner). The reality was that she needed help even to go to the loo.

But she could make fruit salad. She sat at the table with a big bowl, a wooden board and a sharp knife, and various bits of pre-prepared fruit (melons already peeled and in slices, nectarines peeled and off their stones, etc). And she set to, cutting everything in tinier and tinier weeny wee chunks – so very unlike the big chunky fruit salads of our earlier years. I added a basil syrup (as I said to a friend, that supermarket-bought basil plant needed to be used) and we ate fruit salad. At every single meal.

We were also noticing how much weight mum had lost; she needed new trousers, smaller ones that wouldn’t fall down when she stood up – there were enough other hazards in her life. So I ordered new trousers online, and I noted on the 12th June that as well as a courier delivery of trousers, we also had a delivery of a VERY LARGE box of disposable pants from Boots. This was not on my list of Things To Do in 2021, but here we were.

And we had delicious fruit salad.

This series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation. Head there if you want to catch up on how we got to this point.

And finally, dementia is confusing and distressing.. for the person with dementia and those around them. My wish is that nobody with dementia should go through it alone. Click on this link to help make this true. Thank you.

Reasons various

23 Feb

On day 11 of the 100 Day Challenge, I didn’t post anything. On Day 12, I posted the following:

Didn’t get to this yesterday for reasons various…

I wasn’t keeping a diary at the time, and so I don’t know exactly what the “reasons various” were. But in the lead up to this, several days previously, I had sent a message saying the following:

Mum was up and about again last night… at 10pm I noticed her on the camera and went across. She wanted to check her diary to see what was happening (gas boiler man coming this morning, so she probably had a slight memory of this being planned). She then peeped round the door into the sitting room at 1.30 and then withdrew again (probably going for a pee). She’s just opened the curtains now so I think will be tired and more confused through the day today.

It was just before 7am, so that was me up and at it for the day.

The following evening I wrote:

Not much change really to be honest. J is here too at the moment which is certainly much more manage-able for both of us and I think better for Mum too. She’s been enjoying having us read excerpts of her memoirs to her this evening. I’m hoping this tired her out.

And then, this gap of a few days… and on the morning of the 12th, when I posted about “reasons various”, the following:

Mum’s probably much worse than when you last saw her. It’s hard to notice how much deterioration when you’re just dealing with it every day. She wanders at night, though not every night, and needs gentle persuasion and physical help to get back to bed. She honestly can do little for herself unaided now, though still has a healthy appetite and manages to eat. Her short term memory has gone. She is still though very much herself and is coping amazingly, such an inspiration.

Reading this back, I can immediately recall how exhausted we were, how our complete focus was on what was best for Mum. But we were also really aware that in reality we didn’t really know what was best for her. We had been trying to put additional support in place, to help her get dressed in the morning and getting her ready for bed in the evening. But what she really needed was someone with her 24 hours, partly to try to keep her safe, and to help her when she needed to go to the loo, but also because she clearly benefited from companionship.

We had set up a small camera in the sitting room, to help us keep an eye on her when we weren’t there in the room with her. I was initially nervous about this, worrying that she might think we were spying, but no, she was very certain that she could turn it on and off (she couldn’t) and she rather liked it; she understood that it was for her benefit, so we could come when she needed us.

What the camera had shown us though, was that when Mum was having her ‘quiet time’ after lunch with her feet up (this was on the advice of the superb District Nurses, to try to reduce the water retention in her legs) in reality she was bobbing back and forth, up and down, grabbing her walking frame and beetling off out of sight (probably to the loo again) every 10 minutes or so. So, by the 12th June, I was spending more and more time with her (and helping her in the loo), and less and less productive time on my laptop for work.

The restrictions as a result of the Covid pandemic had allowed us all to work from home. But I was now finding that juggling work and caring responsibilities was nigh on impossible. I felt like I was failing at both things. I had considered several times if I should see my doctor and ask for a fit note, to be signed off work for a few weeks.

The emotional toll of trying to keep Mum safe, and always knowing we were probably not doing quite enough had worn us out. I planned to head home for a week in a few days’ time. I hated to admit it, but I needed a break, needed ‘respite’.

But, we were approaching midsummer in Galloway, and Mum’s garden was a solace – the honeysuckle was billowing over the gable end of the house and everything was lush and green. I yearned to go down to the sea, I knew it would restore me. But there were never any hours in the day when this was possible. The sea was there though, waiting for me.

Dementia is confusing.. for the person with dementia and those around them. My wish is that nobody with dementia should go through it alone. Click on this link to help make this true. Thank you.

And if you want to start at the beginning of this series of posts, head here, to Taking Smock of the Situation, where it all began.

Biscuits That Make You Go Ooooh!

14 Feb

On the 9th day of my 100 day embroidery project I wrote the following:

With a few online internal meetings today, I’ve been able to make good progress with embellishing the smock so here I give you my pair of swooping swallows.

Not bad, eh?

My brother and I are looking after Mum together now, after months and months of each of us doing it on our own and then going home for a bit while the other minds Mum. It’s only now, sharing our caring, that I realise how much of the strain is down to the isolation.

When not working for my employer, or caring for Mum, or stitching I can generally be found cooking.. and our new favourite are my Biscuits That Make You Go Ooooh. They are sesame and saffron shortbread. Mum loves them. So today’s bonus is a dish of toasted sesame seeds, and then Those Biscuits.

I’ll spare you the picture of the toasted sesame seeds, because you really don’t need to see them.

But those biscuits! They really do make people go ooooh! I think it’s the surprise of the sesame-ness of them. And then that beguiling hint of saffron. Anyway, they are super-tasty. And even now, seven months later, and with Mum’s memory so patchy, she will delight in saying ooooh if she opens the biscuit tin and finds these biscuits.

I guess you want the recipe don’t you? They are Saffron and Sesame Biscuits by Sabrina Ghayour, from her Simply book, which you really should buy because there are so many VERY good recipes in it. And these are ridiculously simple.

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on how it was last year, what I was up to a year ago, what I didn’t know then that we know now. January 2021 was without doubt the hardest, cruellest month. The weather didn’t help, but that was not the problem. I knew I would be minding Mum on my own for a while, as we’d gone back into lockdown and really we shouldn’t be mixing households, or swapping them about more than was necessary. I had thought a lot about self care, and had put various strategies in place, but even so, it was lonely and (with hindsight) anxiety-making being with Mum, and realising that she probably had the early stages of dementia.

But don’t feel sorry for me, please. We had lovely times together, and I am forever grateful and aware of the privilege of being able to temporarily move my life and live in the house next door to her, in the town where I grew up, and to feel supported by a community (despite us all being locked down and apart from one another) and being nurtured by the Galloway countryside.

I got support from many sources, including from from Alzheimer Scotland, who provide a 24 hour helpline. Please help them keep that helpline free for anyone who needs it. You can donate here: Alzheimer Scotland, and I can tell you that you are an absolute star for supporting all of us who have feared the worst when faced with the prospect of someone we love having dementia.

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