Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being with Mum

Have spent a few very special days with my Mum. And she loved the lavender! I was expecting a vast change from my last visit in May so I was prepared, mentally, but it still comes as a shock to see a mother who used to be so full of life, with such a strong character, and is now trapped and confused within her own body. She was diagnosed with dementia when she had her stroke 3 years ago, but the sister who I spoke to every day also believes she now has Parkinsons Disease and she also referred to my Mum as having first stages of Alzheimers. I am no doctor, or nurse, but I would have said so too because of the strange things she does or can't do at all. (She, the head sister, is arranging for her to see the doctor when he does he weekly visit on Tuesday).

The staff are wonderful there, at the Silver Oaks Lodge, and have now taken over in her room. Before now, she had a key to her room, draped on a lanyard around her neck ... and the only one my brother could find at the time was a black one advertising Johnny Walker Whiskey! So she walked around with 'Keep Walking with Johnny Walker' around her neck!!

Now that has been taken away and she is now dependant on help in her room. They keep her room and cupboard so tidy (Mum used to be immaculate .. never anything out of place). She now needs help for everything from dressing to bathing and eating. I know it comes to all of us but it's heart wrenching to see it happen to your mother.

And she knows that she is not right. Once she grabbed me by the arm, with fear in her eyes and said 'what is happening to me, I feel there is something terribly terribly wrong with me'. And on several occasions said that she feels very strange, with her head up in the clouds and her body way down below. On one day when I was saying goodbye to her and telling her I would see her the following day, she hugged me so tightly and said that she wished we could do so much together and go to many places together. Me too, Mummy
On all my previous visits, I used to take her out for the day. We would go for tea, then stop for lunch somewhere, usually at one of the wine farms and then take her back in time for the evening meal. I would take her driving along country roads and take her to beach to walk on the sand and breath in the lovely sea air.

Not this time, an hour at the most is all she can handle so Ian and Kathy (my brother and sister in law) suggested a lovely quiet coffee shop called Imibala. I had taken her there on previous visits but it has now become her favourite place. It's just down the road from the Home and it's quiet and the staff are very patient and kind, and greet her every time with a huge welcoming smile. So that's where I took her, everyday .. and then took her back for her lunch. Made sure she was seated in the dining room before I left. Back in the afternoon for a brief visit .. found she was tired in the afternoons .. and then made sure she was seated for supper, before I left again. This I did every day.

Mum hasn't forgotten how to smile - at Imibala for tea

The upstairs dining room which is for the elderly who need help.

There is my Mum with the red jacket on at the table in front. The upstairs dining room is very nice .. bright and airy. Oh my .. but I could not watch the nurse put on her bib. Just couldn't.

Old aged homes can be depressing places even though the elderly, in most cases, and in the case of my Mum in this Home, have comfy surroundings .. but you see all the little old folk sitting in the lounge staring into space. Well, the one morning I spotted my Mum sitting in the lounge before I walked through the main door. All the folk had done their 'gym class' and were all seated with rosey cheeks!! .. wishing and hoping the tea would come quickly !! There is a security lady at the front desk and the procedure is that all visitors have to sign in and tell her who you are coming to see. I said I was coming to see Mrs Keay .. she promptly told me that she had died! What, I said !!! No, she died, was the response!!! If I hadn't seen my Mum sitting in the lounge with rosey cheeks I would have been rather shocked, to say the least!!!! Oops, sorry, thought you said Mrs Kelly! I think she needs a lesson in front desk etiquette!

Every other time I went to see her, she was alseep. Not nice to wake her, but I hadn't gone all the way from Johannesburg to Somerset West to watch her sleep. I tried to wake her very gently but she was always so surprised to see me and asked where I came from and she delighted to see me again. When I gave her the lavender she didn't know what it was at first so I put it under her nose to smell it. She immediately said 'how lovely .. that's lavender' Yay, she remembers lavender! But the last time I saw her, I picked a bunch of nasturtiums from the side of the road and put them in a plastic cup, she didn't know what they were and couldn't understand why I was giving them to her. I said it was to make her room look nice and I picked them specially for her - she didn't understand. Oh my .. she was the one who loved flowers of any description ..

I also reminded her that she used to sing - as I was humming the one day and then reminded her that all our lives she used to sing in the house. You always knew where Mum was .. she used to sing in choirs ... and would always sing .. all the time! No, she said, what for ... can't sing anymore, don't want to. She had a beautiful voice, like an angel.

Hands ... like angel's wings

Love you, Mummy


  1. Oh Avril - how very sad, but what a lovely tribute. Your photographs tell such a beautiful story. I love the one "angel wings". My mum is not doing too well either, so I feel so much for you. You have brought tears to my eyes today.

  2. Oh Mom :( I can't believe she doesn't want to sing!! She used to sing ALL the time.

  3. Hi Avril,

    I found your blog via Jeanette and have added it to my reader. I don't always comment, but generally always read. Kudos for stepping on the technology road! There's a lot to learn and it never stops, always evolving.

    I was very moved to read your Mum post. You write beautifully, and your photo's are lovely too. My heart goes out to you. Sad as it was loosing my mom when she was so young (59), I am grateful I was spared what you are going through.

    Peace be with you.