Monday, 1 August 2016

Top tips for holidays

I've just returned from five weeks overseas. Our big overseas holiday, in the planning for almost a year.
Naturally, I was excited as could be. But as our departure date got closer I became increasingly worried. What started as a vague feeling of unease gradually turned to anticipatory guilt.

How would Mum cope? No Saturday outings for five whole weeks. No one picking up when she phoned my house. No one dropping by to sort things when she became confused, bored or stuck.

It wasn't like I was the only family member who could help. But I'm definitely the one she relies on.
It became obvious I had developed a bad case of 'the indispensibles' - a chronic condition where the sufferer believes they are the only person in the entire world who can meet the needs of a particular person or situation.
As soon as I realised that, things improved. And with a bit of trial and error I came up with some things that actually worked.

Here they are - my top tips for carers who are taking a holiday.

1. Keep the run-up short
I noticed early on that as soon as anyone made reference to the impending family holiday, Mum became anxious. So I stopped mentioning it. Whenever Mum brought it up I told her it was ages away. That really helped - Mum was reassured. She stopped worrying and eventually forgot all about it. I didn't revisit the subject until a few days before our departure. That strategy saved months of unnecessary angst.

2. Simplify the info
First time round, I got this completely wrong, printing off our itinerary and giving it to Mum. "It's extremely complicated," she said, struggling through the two page document. So I binned it and started started again, from scratch.
What does Mum need to know? Who was going on holiday. When we were leaving. What else? The countries we were visiting. The date of our return. That was all.
I typed it up in extra large font and printed it out. Then I taped it to the wall next to the wardrobe. By the time I got back it was still kicking round her room. Mum had obviously been looking at it.

3. Accept all offers of help
As our holiday got nearer, friends and family started asking what was happening with Mum. When my Australia-based sister asked what she could do to help, I suggested she pop over for a few days. Friends of mine, who Mum has known for years, offered outings and afternoon teas. My lovely sister-in-law told me she'd like to take Mum out on a couple of days.  I accepted all offers graciously, on my mother's behalf. And to make sure Mum got the most benefit from all this generosity, I put together an itinerary that covered all five Saturdays. For me, the relief was huge. And Mum had a wonderful time with all her new visitors.

4. Let the staff know
Even with the itinerary posted to the wall, Mum was bound to wonder where I'd gone. So I talked to as many staff as I could, telling them what was happening. I emailed the rest home manager and copied in the head nurse. When I got back I was greeted with hugs all round. Mum's carers knew exactly where I'd been. And so did Mum.

5. Send regular updates 
I gave up on postcards a while back. First there's the inevitable time lag. If it's a short trip, by the time the postcard arrives, I'm already back. In the unlikely event that they arrive in time, without me to read them to her, the postcards are put aside or pinned to the noticeboard never to be read again.  Instead, this trip I sent Mum a series of emails. I addressed them to staff who printed them out and handed them to Mum. The news was fresh, immediate and able to be read and reread. I aimed to do one every three or four days but only managed a total of five. Not too bad - one a week.

"Five weeks?!" said Mum when I told her I was going away. "I doubt I'll be alive when you're back."

When we finally arrive at Wellington airport, my mother is part of a noisy welcoming party. There she is, right in the thick of it all, smiling and crying. "So lovely to see you all," she says, kissing and hugging the grandchildren. "Safely back."


  1. 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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  2. 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.
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  3. As a sign of gratitude for how my son was saved from dementia , i decided to reach out to those still suffering from this.
    My son suffered dementia and it was really tough and heartbreaking for me because he was my all and the symptoms were terrible, we tried various therapies prescribed by our neurologist but none could cure him. I searched for a cure and i saw a testimony of so many people who was cured from dementia and so many other with similar body problem, and they left the contact of the doctor who had the herbal cure to dementia . I never imagined dementia has a cure not until i contacted him and he assured me my son will be fine. I got the herbal medication he recommended and my son used it and in one months he was fully okay even up till this moment he is so full of life. dementia has a cure and it is a herbal cure contact the doctor for more info on on how to get the medication. Thanks for reading my testimony