Surviving in echo valley.

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Indeed we do at times seem to be living in an echo valley or a vale of repetition, constantly having to repeat what we say to the AP.

The AP’s short term memory is getting worse except where her money is concerned that is and then we manage a pretty good recall. She loves a bit of a flutter on the lottery and winnings are remembered with extreme accuracy although adding up can become a bit of a challenge. Astonishing really because for anything else, appointments, places we’ve visited and even people just met are forgotten almost immediately or the relevant information is not even absorbed in the first place. Stories become jumbled and information is relayed back to us in a completely random and often wrong format.

The LSO and I have to repeat everything at least twice for every appointment and every place we have visited.

The AP is also a real snooker groupie which is a good thing from several points of view. It does give her something to watch that she is genuinely interested in, albeit very close to the TV screen, but it also forces her to concentrate. We then get her to tell us what has happened during the sessions thus hopefully enforcing the learning process. It works only to a point because she does rather get stuck with the players who have been around for a number of years and have become her favourites to watch. So comments are often the same content as the day before or even the championship before.

A further odd brain fart to add to the echo effect is the satellite delay syndrome. The AP will be sitting quietly with a conversation going on around her and when that has finished she will ask the question that the conversation was about as if it had never happened. Or if someone has answered a question she will repeat the answer as if no-one had replied but slightly later.

The old grey matter and how it functions is a mystery and obviously as we age it becomes even more of a mystery. I read somewhere that we start going downhill mentally from our fifties onwards, and that to keep as many as our little grey cells as possible we need to exercise regularly both mentally and physically, eat a sensible Mediterranean-type diet and keep the weight down. EEEEK! I do need to lose weight and exercise more but the diet is ok as long as I don’t drink too much wine. Mind you I hadn’t noticed that being the case in Spain, France or Italy; they love their wine, am I missing something here?

 

 

 

Finding some freedom.

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Its a week since I wrote anything in this blog diary but it’s not because I didn’t want to write but mostly that everything is so damned depressing. I really must find a way out of the feeling of doom and gloom that is shrouding the LSO and myself.

Just to put the final touches to these feelings of misery I caught a really violent tummy bug that is still attempting to linger on four days later. The up side to that, if there is one, is that I have lost some weight and the LSO became Captain Dettol!

We really cannot blame the AP although her presence is a big part of the situation but she is not to blame for where we are now, we did that all on our own. We really had no idea what we were doing when we suggested that the AP comes to live with us four years ago.

The AP had always appeared to be a thoroughly social and outgoing person but we soon found out that the reality is exactly the opposite. She is highly critical of others and at times quite malicious about our friends basing everything on what she sees as a slight against herself. My god, who is this person I am writing about, I am shocked and horrified to say it is my mother, heaven forbid that my own children would feel this way about me or the LSO.

She has a better social life than us but that wouldn’t be difficult because, at the moment we don’t have one. The highlight of last week was trip to the bottle bank! Unless we instigate outings with the AP or arrange for her to go anywhere she will do nothing to help herself, just sit in her room watching television or staring into space or nodding off in the chair. That’s all ok and to be expected at 99 years of age but the downside is her attitude and general demeanour when spending time with us. The AP becomes bored and wants entertaining, like a child really. She gets everything mixed up now and is forgetful but is equally insistent that her absolutely wrong statements are true, refusing to accept the correct versions of events even when they are about us and not her. Her own mixed up memories of her life are no problem but it becomes more difficult when she makes incorrect statements to visitors and family about us and others. It’s all very sad really but in the meantime our lives are slipping by in this fog of extremely slow moving boredom.

It’s easy to think that we should snap out of this but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Before her arrival here we never stopped, we went out and explored, socialised, laughed a lot, the LSO did his printmaking, fishing and enjoyed his gardening. I painted in my studio, even selling the odd one, enjoyed my experimental cooking, the joy of living here and of course my bread making and now? Well it’s all too much of an effort.

We are trying so hard not to be resentful but I think we should put our energies into being more determined to change our situation and start going out more. There is a whiff of wallowing that can become habitual and we do need to stop that in its tracks.  We have contacted the Careline that supplies the personal alarm and key safe but as yet no-one has come back to us. That should at least give us some peace of mind when (not if) we go out. We must also ignore the inevitable guilt trip the AP will put us on the minute we do it.

Well here’s to at least some guilt free freedom at the end of the rainbow that would be more welcome than a pot of gold.

When the loss of a sibling becomes a memory.

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Death touches us all at some time and it is never an easy place to be. We all have our own ways of dealing with the inevitable sadness and grief that the loss brings and all our different ways of coping are equally valid. In my case I cope by putting things into compartments until I am ready to peek under the lid. Up until now I haven’t been able to look at how I really feel about losing my brother. The initial news was inevitably of shock and that creates a kind of numbness. Then there is the empty space between the news and the final farewell. Funerals are strange and for me, stressful events, an odd mixture of pleasure at seeing family and friends and huge shared sadness.

I loved my brother, he was older than me and did everything before me including marrying and having a family. I was never in any rush to have my children and enjoyed the freedom the LSO and I had in those early years. Probably just as well as now we look after the AP, we have no freedom.

But back to my older brother. He was always there somewhere in my life. We never felt the need for constant contact and lived at either end of the country but distance and the passing of time never seemed to matter. When we met up or talked on the telephone it was as if we had just seen each other recently. During the last two years the LSO and I were able to enjoy some quality time with my brother. They had always got on well together and enjoyed each other’s company both having similar interests in fishing, shooting, the countryside and dog walking and for that I am truly grateful. I guess there are regrets but they are not worth dwelling on, the past is the past and should stay there and even looking back there was nothing any of us could have done that would have changed things.

I know that I must treasure the good memories and they will always be with me. I don’t want to hide away nor do I need too much sympathy as that makes me a bit weepy.  I don’t believe in wallowing as that can turn into self pity. I have always approached most things in my life in an utterly practical and mostly positive way so I will carry on as I usually do but keeping a special place in my heart for my memories of my brother.

In search of serenity.

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I realise now having reflected long and hard about my current state of being that I am in need of finding some inner calm.

Another quote sprang out at me, again author unknown. ‘Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life but the ability to cope with it’. How true those words are.

Since the confrontation with the AP and the sad death of my brother I have felt myself withdraw emotionally from everything, falling almost into a state of depression.  I feel an enormous loss not just because of my brother having gone but it has highlighted once again the loss of the life the LSO and I should have been leading during the past four years. The freedom we should have had whilst we are still fit and young enough to be able to enjoy so many different things. I feel as if I have and am just existing and really not coping very well with the stresses and strains that looking after a 99 year old brings and this doesn’t even include the acquiring of a metabolic as well as an auto immune disease during this time.

I feel some relief in that although some of the confrontation with the AP a couple of weeks ago was unpleasant, we at least were able to say the things that needed saying without angst on our part.

Generally there has been an improvement in her attitude and behaviour and if that sounds like I am discussing a recalcitrant child you would not be wrong because the AP behaves like one when unable to get her own way. Unfortunately one of the problems of having someone so old living with you is the inevitability of accidents. This time it has been the leaving on of the hot tap in the bathroom and the flooding of that room causing water to pour through the lights in the living room. Water has also seeped out onto the landing and into the bedrooms on either side. The AP hates to admit to being in the wrong and even now is trying to put the blame somewhere else when only she can have done this. It’s an accident and we all know accidents happen but it could have had much worse repercussions and I am just thankful that we were here. I will not be blackmailed with how awful she feels about it, just a simple ‘sorry’ would have been enough not the silly comment that ‘there must be something evil about’.

I now need to put in a coping strategy. One which can help all of us and in particular the LSO who has a long memory for injustice.

When the end comes.

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Death is the most inevitable part of life but most of us try to ignore it and even treat it with fear. My brother died last night and although we were prepared it still comes as a shock, someone who has been there all my life has gone. Then of course there is the moment at which the AP has to be told that her son as died and that is a hard one but must be done.

I find no solace in copious weeping because that just leaves me feeling utterly destroyed. My own father died when I was 36 years old and that was hard but death puts things in perspective. I discovered then that the things I thought mattered had little relevance and I was able to reflect then and now on what really does matter.

Perhaps one of the saddest things of all is the fact that we don’t express our true feelings enough during life and these facts are accentuated with death. But in truth these feelings of grief are only for ourselves. We must be true to ourselves, love people for what they are and be honest about our feelings.

I found this wonderful piece of writing that seems to have been around for a long time but no-one knows who wrote it.

‘Every Light Carries the Ray of Hope’

‘Seek to always keep the light of hope lit for yourself. During those difficult times, the sad times, resolve to keep that light on, no matter how dim life tries to make it.

If you are struggling right now, if today you find yourself overwhelmed by life or besieged with doubt and fear, keep hope close. Know that the flame of strength and confidence to overcome anything lies within and is always there just waiting to be lit.

So today, calm your mind, spark your light of hope and embrace the challenge of the day, recognise that you are going to be ok, know it, feel it, believe it.’

Today is a time of great sadness but not a time for regret. It is a time of fond remembrance and reflection. It is just so important to appreciate what is in our lives and realise that life is to be treasured, enjoyed and lived without illusion or recrimination.

 

 

Is there hope on the horizon?

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I woke up this morning feeling extremely under par. Nothing I could put my finger on, just a general feeling of not being right.

I can probably nail it all down to a really restless night, worry about my brother, guilt that I am unable to ease in any way the unbearable burden his children are having to shoulder, guilt that I really wish I wasn’t looking after the AP. Concern about my own health as well as my seeming inability to lose any weight (I did lose half a pound last week) and just to top it all off, worry that the whole situation is getting the LSO down. He really doesn’t need that as he is still recovering from being so very ill earlier this year.

Nearly forgot, the problem that actually brought all these feelings to the surface, for two days now we have had no heating and no hot water due to a boiler malfunction. This will be put right by this evening but we had a flush of the central heating system booked in for today and that cannot be done now as hot water is needed. That is now booked in for next Tuesday but I felt a great rush of frustration that was totally silly but is all part of the huge emotional trap that being a carer entails. The situation does not improve with time; most days I can ignore the feelings and by compartmentalising keep my sanity but I guess when the resistance drops it’s a bit like a breach in a sea wall and the waves of emotion rush in to drown me.

Is there any help out there? We have a lady whose professional title is a Care Navigator, coming to see the AP and presumably us too on Monday afternoon with, I hope, some suggestions to help break this immense feeling of being trapped and unable to sort our own lives out. Hopefully she will encourage the AP to get out and about but without us, perhaps even suggest respite care but I’m not holding my breath. The AP won’t think any of it is necessary.

The land of limbo.

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It really is a strange place to be and I feel as if I am living in another reality. Since the AP’s unreasonable and totally unwarranted outburst we have had our son and his partner staying for a couple of nights. It gave us all a welcome break from the rather strange calm that fills the house at the moment.

This is partly while we wait for news of my brother who remains heavily sedated. It is early days and we just have to be patient.

The AP is behaving quite rationally at the moment and we are all making an effort to keep the atmosphere light; so far it seems to be working. Perhaps the moment the AP realised we could be serious about her leaving her comfortable haven here and going to live in a Care Home was the catalyst for calm. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the real truth. Her outburst last week reflected the fact that she confuses time and events continually and when she can’t work something out the AP makes a story up and then believes it. She can be surprisingly sly as well as quite vindictive one minute and then gushingly sweet the next.

I suppose what we are witnessing is the slow degradation of the brain that comes with such extreme old age. It is sad but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to deal with and somehow we need to find a solution that is not too painful for either of us. Because she is well looked after and does little except look after her personal care she thinks she can cope with anything. The truth is the opposite.

Meanwhile we will continue doing what we have been doing for the last four years and wait patiently to see what occurs. I do believe that situations can resolve themselves given time and we just need faith that our guardian angels are looking out for us.