Before I came to live with my eighty-four-year-old mum, apparently, she was doing the cleaning, the washing and the ironing. She cooked her own meals and one for her son once a week. She needed transport to the bank so my brother took her and my aunty stepped in to take her shopping on a wed and Saturday.
Hmmm but was she doing all this stuff? We have rows now about me doing the cleaning on the wrong days! She does it weekly she explains. “Upstairs on a Tuesday and downstairs on a Thursday”. When I say, she has not done it since I have been here, she goes ballistic as if I am calling her a liar. I am just explaining it needs doing.
When I come downstairs with washing after changing the beds, again she verbally attacks me. “Where has all that come from? I only wash twice a week”. So, I don’t do it. After a couple of hours she then goes to the washing basket and again asks me “where has all this come from?”. I explain again and we relive the two days a week washing rule again. This happens every week.
Every time I take out the hoover I get accused of making her feel that her house is dirty. That I believe she has not done it. I don’t believe she has not done it, I know she has not! But I am happy to do. But she greets it all as if I am criticising her. I am honestly not, just getting things done.
She falls asleep a lot. Then when I try and coax her out to do things she gets flustered. When I coax her to phone for her home chiropodist to come as her feet need attention, she says she will do it. But then time goes on. She says her feet hurt, so I coax her again to phone to make an appointment. She says irritably “I’ll do it!” Later that day I encourage her again. Offering to make the call. “You don’t trust me to do anything, do you?”
“Where’s Tommy?” She asks for the umpteenth time today. Asking about the tortoise behind the sofa.
I get her the phone and the address book and she makes the call. We write it on the calendar. Then she looks at me as if I am mad. “That was simple she says”.
She makes her breakfast and has done her lunch today. I offer to make her, her tea. I am just trying to be nice. “You can if you want to” she says. I just don’t want to do everything for her, I want her to remain as independent, for as long as possible. She says thank you afterwards and we agree it always tastes better if someone else has cooked it.
“There’s nothing on the telly tonight she says” but she watches anyway and falls asleep. I ask her what has happened in a soap we both watch. “I don’t know” she says and she clearly does not. A lot of it is going over her head now. Background noise. She cannot follow a detective plot at all. She finds reading hard too.
She is looking at the calendar now just to make sure the appointment for the chiropodist has been written down. She asks me what date it is today and what day it is. I have written on what she does on the regular days to help her. She chides me “you needn’t write all this on the calendar you know, I can remember!” “Is B coming shopping with me tomorrow or is it you?” she asks. I reassure it is her sister coming at the usual time.
Then she laughs as I help her in the shower. We are now in a routine of twice a week. She was too scared to get in on a regular basis before by herself, because she was scared of falling. We make a joke of her shower cap. I remember to warm the flannel as it was “too cold” last week. I make sure her feet are dry and moisturised. She says how funny it is that the children have now turned into the parent.
I say night, night and she sleeps.
I live every day with my mum’s frustration with herself. The world is getting very distressing for her. She loses things on a regular basis. She gets upset. She says “it’s just stupid”. She knows she needs help but does not want to accept it. She does not want to “spoil my life”. I reassure her that I am here because I want to be.
She accepts that getting up the front and back steps is an issue. I rang the council to arrange for handles to be put on to assist. When I say what I have done, she gets really angry “I don’t need them yet!” After discussion, she says it is OK but I bet we have a ‘hoo har’ when they come to put them on.
Then she asks “when are you going back?” She still has not quite got it that I am here to stay for as long as she needs me. I am not quite sure whether she wants me to go away for a bit.
I am having a life outside my mother. I do Yoga and Salsa and have also joined a choir. Weekly activities that get me out of the house as well as part time working. This is the case for now. This may change in the future.