1. Caring is like collage
Once I’m in the zone - thinking about being a carer, what I do and how Mum responds - ideas pop up everywhere. I stick them together and make something that works. For Mum and me.
So….. spending a summer weekend at the beach + noticing a complete absence of elderly people + knowing Mum misses many of the physical sensations most of us take for granted = making a plan for us to immerse ourselves in the sensory delights of the seaside (Magic Beach)
2. Read, read, read
There are great books - some about living with dementia (Alzheimers From The Inside) and others about caring for people with dementia (Contented Dementia). Then there are books that never mention the D word, as Mum calls it. They talk about stuff that’s so interesting, useful and relevant you'd swear they were written with caring in mind.
3. Keep a swipe file
I constantly stumble upon things that spark ideas for me and Mum. Anything useful gets chucked in the folder. An ad for the local swimming pool led to a hydrotherapy session (Hydrotherapy). A discarded train timetable got me thinking about taking Mum on the train, retracing the trip she did to school from the age of four. Train trip coming up soon!
4. Carry a notebook and pen.
I’m a dedicated list maker so I’m always writing stuff down - when I’m with Mum and when I’m not. Quotes from Mum, things she suggests, reminders for myself…. the more I do that the more likely I am to come up with activities Mum likes.
5. Step away from the screen (and other distractions)
Caring for people is about engaging with them, giving your full attention. When my phone pings, it’s tempting to check it. But it’s easy to zone out and neglect the person you’re with. When Mum and I are together I try to focus on her. As much as I can.
Just as children notice when you're multitasking and not really listening, older people really feel it.
6. Don’t wait until you know what you think to get started.
When I started blogging I had no idea how it would go. It’s been so interesting - If I hadn’t been writing about stuff I doubt I’d have tried nearly as many things. It wasn't until I started writing that I began to really notice stuff and think intentionally about caring for a someone who’s living with dementia.
7. Keep a (daily/weekly/whatever) routine.
I’m a part-time carer so the routine with Mum and me is weekly - Saturdays with Mum. I write about it when I feel like it. Not every week, more like once every two or three weeks. But the fact that I’m writing about it regularly keeps my brain ticking over. What have Mum and I been up to? What worked, what didn’t ? What’s our next adventure?
8. Write something you would want to read
Part of the reason for starting the blog is I couldn’t find anything about anyone else in a similar situation. But I was pretty sure that every Saturday, or Sunday, or any other day of the week, there are people like me - daughters (or sons) who visit their mother (or father) in rest homes. I was right. It’s great hearing from you and sharing ideas.
9. Tell stories
Stories are what work best. The more real the better. Enough said.
10. Practice in public
Anonymous blogs are kind of public, but not too much. There’s pros and cons. Pros? I did it that way to preserve Mum’s privacy. It also helped me at the start when I was finding the whole blogging thing quite scary. And the cons? Anonymous blogs are harder to promote.
So ….if you like Saturdays with Mum, please share it with anyone you think might find it useful or interesting.
This month is Saturday with Mum’s first birthday.
Love from Sandwich Gen Jane