I moved to Manchester to care for my mum. I moved into the house I was born in, in order to keep things as much the same as possible.
One of the most challenging things is that my mother keeps asking me where things are. Where to put things. It often feels like she is accusing me of moving everything since I moved in. But I realise that she really does not remember where she has put things in the past, or worse still in the last few minutes.
We begin the morning by my mum getting up and me then getting up to rush downstairs to prepare her breakfast while she washes and dresses. It is important to me that she does this in private for as long as possible. But I am beginning to get concerned when she puts a jumper on again that has clearly got stains on it from yesterday’s meals. I don’t think her eyesight is too good. But to tell her about this causes major upset as she feels this is just evidence that she is not coping. It is actually her family’s way of maintaining her standards of dress. She would never in the past wear something with a stain on it.
Downstairs I get breakfast. My mum is often breathless by the time she reaches the table. I think it is important she takes a rest. So, I have made the tea and warmed the milk for her cereal. She can do this but why shouldn’t I care for my mum at 84. I struggle with the issues of letting her do as much as she can for herself, but as the same time being kind and caring for my mum.
She has a choice of cereal usually one of two. Too many and she looks at me at a loss. Too much choice is really, too much. When we were out shopping the shelf upon shelf of cereals available in the store was overwhelming.
I think the same is true of clothes which is why she sticks to a very small wardrobe choice. Her wardrobes and drawers are jam packed with stuff but she refuses to cut down. If I choose then I always choose the wrong thing. If she makes a choice it takes ages and then it is what she has worn before.
She gets very anxious, if she has to change her jumper or skirt due to stains. She then criticises me for my alternate choice. She is then breathless about the whole episode and if we preparing to go out it just gets worse and worse. We finally made it to the car to go shopping on Saturday afternoon but she declared she was now too tired to go. I agreed with her. She stayed home and fell asleep and I went off and did the shopping. I returned to her upset again “for putting on me” despite me saying everything was OK. Sometimes I don’t know what to do for the best.
Making meals for my mum is also a challenge. She is not eating as much as she used to and dislikes meals that she is unsure of. Everything has to be really plain cooking. Meat or fish and Veg. This is fine. It is an actual bonus for me as I am losing weight if I eat with her. But she is having some difficulty eating and swallowing now, thus the stains on her clothes. She often misses her mouth and is choosing to eat with her fork in one hand and nothing else. She tries and cuts things with the fork and spoons everything in.
I have read about this in older people with dementia, I have seen it when I was nursing. There are special plastic adult bibs to obtain to assist. But this is my mum! Again, if I draw attention and offer a napkin, she looks at me annoyed. She knows I am watching her which must be a terrible pressure. I am trying not to. But my old mum would not do this. I try and make conversation. I try and make things as normal and routine as possible but I am not sure my mum enjoys meals now.
I am especially concerned if we go out to eat as this often happens there too. I just eat my dinner and try to ignore. I hope no one notices because I am trying not to notice. But at least napkins are more acceptable there. She used to love going out for meals but can be over-faced by the size of the portions.
After dinner at home she likes to help and to wash up. I am sure my washing up is not to her standards. Actually my washing up has left a lot to be desired over the years. As many friends can testify. However, mum is now washing up and huffing and puffing in the kitchen. I ask her if I can help and she looks at me upset “where does this go” she asks? “I just can’t remember, why can’t I remember”?