“Have you got your money?” I asked my mum on the doorstep. “Yes and I’ve got my hanky!” she cheekily retorted with a smile.
We both appreciated the poignancy of the moment. I was seeing my eighty-four year old mum off to church, like she had seen me off many times to school. The tables had turned and now I was ensuring my mum was OK instead of the other way around. I watched her till she was safely in my cousins’ car. I did have a feeling of what many mothers feel like sending their child off into the unknown. I have not had children myself so have never had this experience before. It is funny that I am going through it now.
I constantly wonder however, if I am doing the right thing being here. Making meals for my mum that up until February she had been totally capable of doing herself. But having witnessed her in the kitchen with the pans and the gas, I do feel safer being around. There has been the odd incident of burnt pans and overcooked food in the microwave.
She also cannot reach for things on the top shelf like she used to. She mutters with frustration and huffs and puffs. When the plate clatters to the floor she cries out in exasperation. “Why can’t I do this anymore?”. I reassure to the best of my ability, but it is hard watching and waiting till she gets to the point where she needs me. I know she feels better when I do most things for her but the current that idea is she carries on doing as much as she can for herself. I am actually surprised sometimes by what she can do, if I don’t do it.
But it does take her longer. She will often exclaim in pain as her legs “won’t go” anymore. What kind of a daughter am I? Of course, I step in.
I am finding one aspect of this memory loss business fascinating though. It is like my mum has a pre-programmed set of responses. You say something and out comes the stock standard reply. It is very strange but if we talk at all about my Aunty, my mum then goes on about not wanting to bother her. That “her life is that church”. The same story, over and over again.
The people next door also prompt the response “I don’t know who they are”. Sadly, the neighbours’ house was turned over to the department for asylum seekers a few years ago. A number of families from all points west, have occupied the house in that time. My mum has now stopped trying to get to know them. So, the stock answer now is always, “I don’t know who they are”. This is even though she has met the new family and their children several times since I have been here.
I think that because she makes the same response It is almost comforting. She does have something to say. When other people meet her they say, “isn’t she chatty”, “she has her wits about her”. It is only you who know that she is just repeating scripts she has said many times before.
You mention money in any way and she tells you how she can never forget the rent. This is after her mum was made to feel small by a lady at the corner shop who was owed money by her mum. “I will never owe money” my mum says. But I have heard this same story almost every day since I came to Manchester. The button to press is just to mention money in any way.
Every Sunday evening my mum begins to worry about the bank on Monday morning. Every Sunday evening she starts getting things ready. She worries about “not paying something” she goes on and on. She walks around from place to place finding what she needs for the bank on Monday. This goes on for a few hours. I think this may be the beginning of what is called “sundowning” described by the Altzeimer’s Association. Something happens in the evening after the sun goes down to unsettle the person. Making them anxious, talkative, walking. Currently I am lucky that when my mum goes to bed she generally stays there.
I am getting worried though now about personal care issues. She does let me help her shower. But I have a feeling she will need more help over time. What happens if I go away? What am I setting myself up for in the future? I am doing more and more laundry, but what the heck she thinks I do it every day anyway!