In Geoff’s words…
Following my father’s death nine years before, my mother had maintained an independent lifestyle. However, at 90, she had heart problems and was admitted to hospital. Upon discharge, my wife and I suggested she come to live with us to recuperate.
Care at home
Unfortunately, her new medication worsened her sense of balance and she had the odd fall, so we got her a walking frame. However, it eventually became clear that she would never be well enough to return to her own home and she’d have to stay with us. We had to cater for my mum’s food preferences, do her washing and my wife assisted Mum to shower herself. We also needed a stair lift.
Of course, we had now lost our independence and, inevitably, there were problems. My wife and I were still working and our routine was to have our main meal in the evening, but Mum much preferred hers at lunchtime. We bought best quality pre-cooked meals and arranged for carers to come and prepare them for her but she didn’t like not having proper home-cooked meals on weekdays.
We didn’t watch much television; we’d record a few favourite programmes and watch them at our convenience. Mum liked the telly on from 11am till bedtime – ‘It’s company for me.’ (Fair enough.) She watched all the soaps, which we didn’t. Her hearing was going and she wouldn’t have a hearing aid, so she wanted the volume higher than we’d like it. She didn’t like us going out for too long, so we had to watch the clock.
She then started having panic attacks and would bang on our bedroom door in the early hours. She said she felt frightened but couldn’t think why. We’ve since learned that this can be an early symptom of dementia, which did affect her in the end.
The value of respite care and then a care home
Having a parent move in with you is a very big step, so much depends on personalities and how you live your lives.
We took Mum on our annual holidays, but then needed a holiday on our own. I found an excellent care home for her, but Mum wasn’t happy at this prospect. The manager there, however, was marvellous and persuaded my mum to leave her room and mingle. I think she liked having the company and she was now having two or three hot meals a day.
When we returned, she was quite relaxed, but within two days she suffered a panic attack. She realised that she hadn’t had any in the care home and after talking it over with me she decided she’d like to give the care home another go. She was there for three years until she died.
We had peace of mind knowing that she was getting more attention there and we got our freedom back. Having a parent move in with you is a very big step and, if you’ve the choice, needs serious thought. So much depends on personalities and how you live your lives.”
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