Sunday, 5 June 2016

Five questions

Mum has five questions. We talk about them a lot. This is how they go:

1. What’s the matter with me?
“You’ve got a problem with your short-term memory,” I say. Sometimes Mum asks me if it’s dementia. So I explain it’s Alzheimer's - a type of dementia. “I hate the D word,” says Mum. “It makes me sound demented - mad and stupid.”
I tell Mum she’s none of these things. That she’s still perfectly intelligent, that everything she says is completely reasonable. Which is true.
Sometimes we talk about intelligent, reasonable people who have also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's - Alison Holst, Iris Murdoch, Margaret Thatcher. “Margaret Thatcher!” says Mum. “I’m not too sure about her.”

2. What’s happened to my house?
“We sold it. All of us decided together, us kids and you.”  I tell her it was too hard to keep it going, a big old house in the country. With a huge garden to look after. Then I explain it’s been more than six years since she moved out. “Amazing, isn't it?”
“Yes,” says Mum. “It certainly is.”
Sometimes Mum asks what’s happened to her things. I tell her we went through everything that was precious and made sure someone in the family would look after it. “You young people can’t imagine what that’s like,” says Mum. “It’s a very strange feeling.”

3. What can I do to get better?
“I don't think the memory problem is curable,” I say. “But I’m pretty sure you can feel a lot better than you do right at this moment.”
Then Mum asks me what’s needed for her to get better. We talk about staying active, saying yes to everything - walks, trips out with other residents, knitting projects, doing the crossword and being social. About keeping body and mind active to improve her mood. “Right,” says Mum. “I really need to lift my game.”

4. Do I have a future?
“What exactly do you mean?” I ask. Mum knows I’m stalling. She tells me she needs hope. So we talk about what she’s looking forward to - next Wednesday’s drive with Rachel, grandchildren coming to stay, Louise coming over from Australia ...

5. What’s the matter with me?
“You have a problem with your short-term memory …”  Then Mum and I talk a bit more. After a while I say, “Shall we go out?”
“Can we?” says Mum.
She never turns me down.


  1. Just read Family Care Mag and then your Blog. Your Mum could be my Mum at the moment but I am grateful for your music idea. How hard was it to get the Doctor to take your Mum off her medication?

    1. Forgot to say that we have Mum living with us and she has Stage 3 Dementia so we await a place in a Dementia Unit to come available because life is getting 'tougher'


  2. I suffered from this horrible syndrome (ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE)...and it was horrible...for the past 3 years this has taken over pretty much all of my walking moments along with other medical issues. My family/friends have been with me through it all. But Today I am pain free!! I can't even believe how this all happened...I am just as amazed as, my family/friends are...none of us can believe how long I suffered and now in literally a matter of months I am completely pain free.
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  3. In my own case it was just over four years ago when my Mum began to sound different on the phone. She lived back East with my siblings and my husband and I were living on the West coast and in phone calls it became apparent that my Mum's voice no longer had the same tones of excitement and humor that she used to; and instead it was very flat. At the same time she began to tell us about a situation at work that just didn't seem possible; she was complaining that a group of fellow workers were conspiring to get her. Although Mum had much academic success as a teenager, her behavior had become increasingly odd during the past years. She quit seeing her friends and no longer seemed to care about her appearance or social pursuits. She began wearing the same clothes each day and seldom bathed. She lived with several family members but rarely spoke to any of us. Obviously this whole story seemed very unbelievable and we sensed something was wrong but had no clue as to what it could be. We recommended that my Mum quit her job and look for something else - as we began to wonder if she had a "mental breakdown" and would get better once out of the stressful job situation.
    In the case of Mum, she was having persecurtory delusions, auditory hallucinations and negative symptoms that had lasted for at least Three years. All of these symptoms fit with a diagnosis of Dementia. Her story reflects a common case, in which a high-functioning young adult goes through a major decline in day-to-day skills. Although family and friends may feel this is a loss of the person they knew, the illness can be treated and a good outcome is possible as it all got better when we started using a herbal medicine for her through Aparajita.
    My recommendation to people who are either wondering if they have DEmentia or wondering if a friend or loved one has Dementia should contact ( I think one of our key problems was that we didn't do this in the early days of my Mum's illness as we never thought of a natural alternative for her.