By Chris Crowstaff, founder of Safe World for Women.
15th July 2015.
Today I took my mum for an ECG (electocardiogram) to check out her heart, to help the psychiatrist to prescribe the most appropriate medication to slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Our son is living with Mum at the moment, in between his WWOOF volunteering jobs - which Mum is finding far less confusing than having a variety of strangers visiting her from social services.
When I arrived at Mum's today, she greeted me by saying that the 'people' staying with her had all gone off to church. She thought our son might have gone too. Actually he had gone back to bed because she'd woken him at 6 am.
Also, today is Wednesday and there's no church service. And there was no-one else staying with her.
So I set off with Mum to the doctor's surgery, a few minutes away by car. The roads were quite busy, which Mum said is because everyone is doing their Christmas shopping.
At first, she thought the local surgery (which she's been visiting for the last 27 years), was a church. But she was quite happy to find it was the doctor's surgery - though surprised it was open on a Sunday.
After Mum had sticky tabs attached to her body by the nurse, and the nurse had disentangled the wires and connected her up to the ECG, Mum happily got dressed again and I took her into town.
We needed to pay a small cheque into her bank account, which Mum also enjoyed because she loves seeing people and getting out and about. She did want to take the Cooperative Bank pen home with her - which the lovely woman clerk said she was welcome to do if she needed a pen. But I persuaded her to leave the pen for the bank people.
Next I asked Mum if she'd like to cross the arcade to buy a Big Issue publication from the nice gentleman, which she was very keen to do. Mum knows very well that, in doing so, she was helping to support homeless people. She doesn't change in that way. The young man's English wasn't very good so we didn't really have a conversation with him but he was extremely grateful to Mum for buying from him. We both wondered what his personal story was. Mum was concerned that sometimes there are women selling Big Issues, who seem to be older than she is. I said I'd love to know people's stories - how they got to where they are now. And Mum very much agreed.
I explained that our son had previously been to see a talk by John Bird, the founder of Big Issue (and himself once homeless) - and she was also extremely interested.
Mum decided she didn't need any other shopping and we returned to the car - with Mum feeling very fulfilled, and with her Big Issue in hand.
I spent the next couple of hours sorting through Mum's paperwork. Mainly because I think it makes her feel better if she doesn't have too much stuff around. It may be, in large part, because she's a 'war-child' that she keeps everything. It is very common for her generation, in Europe, to dislike disposing of anything - which includes of course saving food (for years, Mum has been known to turn up on visits with random 'leftovers').
Meanwhile, our son cooked lunch for Mum. poached eggs - as I've read that the choline in eggs might possibly help with Alzheimer's, as a precurser of acetylcholine - the chemical which helps the brain cells to connect with each other.
When Mum comes to stay with us each week, we just let her pack what she wants to take to her house. Inevitably that includes some of our belongings.
So when she gets back home, I unpack for her and bring our stuff home again. However, sometimes things get overlooked. So, when I was sorting Mum's bedroom today, I found our daughter's student railcard - rather valuable as it means our daughter gets discounts on her many train journeys to visit family. We have absolutely no idea how it got into Mum's house, as it's usually kept in our daughter's bag in her bedrooom. So needless to say she's very relieved we found it!
We've got in the habit of hiding some things from Mum, such as our toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Overall, Mum seems to have had a very fulfilling day. To the extent that she repeatedly expressed her gratitude for my visit. And also wants to come back to our house again as soon as possible. She even emphasised, twice, that she doesn't want to live in her bungalow for a lot longer and would like to live with us. Which really is a huge relief as we're having a 'granny annex' built here for her. She had been a little contemptuous (again) about the idea at the weekend when our lovely architect friend came to visit. But he is incredibly good and patient with her and obviously (yet again) won her over.
Not that we haven't discussed the idea with Mum as a family, numerous times, over the last year - and she has increasingly said she feels it would be a good idea and, often, a lovely idea.
But of course, it's hard for any of us to accept that we can't manage alone any more. I'm just thankful that my mum is the person she is and, though occasionally becoming upset, is basically full of happiness, gratitude and love.
Those are the feelings I remember her imparting to me as a child and I'm sure are the feelings that will stay with me, whatever happens next in our lives.
Part 1 - A Journey With Mum - Called Alzheimer's
Part 2 - Expecting the Unexpected - Alzheimer's
Part 3 - Alzheimer's - Looking on the Bright Side