For what seemed like an eternity I was “locked up” in England, not in the Tower of London with the Ravens, but in my Mum’s new world. A world of severe physical illness, disability and the insidious loss of short term memory.
After several weeks in England working as my Mum’s care partner I finally arrived back here in the US. I will not attempt to describe in detail the final few weeks of my stay on the other side of the pond, but suffice to say it was more difficult than anticipated, nothing went to “plan”, and as a consequence I have developed an even better understanding of what our Memory Matters caregivers (care partners) go through every day of their lives.
My 94 year old Mother (“Mum”) is now in a safer place. A nursing home where she has access to 24 hour nursing care and well qualified care giving staff. Does she like it? No! Does she like that I am having to sell the family home of 45 years to pay for the care? No! However compared to the ten weeks she spent suffering greatly in the hospital it is significantly better and really there was no other option.
Convincing my Mum to accept the move to the nursing home AND to sell the home were together the most challenging and emotional propositions that I can ever recall having to handle. The fact that my Mum’s short term memory has significantly deteriorated made the telling really difficult, if not impossible! Over and over and over again! In such circumstances there comes a time when your own sanity is sorely tested and I was reminded by my wife, family and friends, including my professional friends at Memory Matters, to “take care of yourself”! Even that is hard to do. When you know that what you are doing is right and in the best interests of the loved one it is necessary to persevere and, relax……………… whenever you can.
Finding something to help you and your loved one relax is awfully close to the impossible dream! I finally made great progress when Cathee (one of our illustrious Program Directors) suggested that I buy a cheap guitar to entertain my Mum. As my readers know I’m an enthusiastic amateur guitar player and enjoy singing at Memory Matters. So armed with this great idea I acquired an inexpensive guitar and started playing in the hospital lunch room for my Mum and a few others just before we moved her to the nursing home.
The first four days in the nursing home were as stressful as you can imagine and no end of guitar music was going to assuage that, but little by little we succeeded because half the residents in the care home were keen to join the singing and by the time I bid my Mum an emotional au revoir, we were both more relaxed and my spirits had been revived. Playing and singing for two to three hours a day maintained my equilibrium and my Mum enjoyed singing and being part of a group of folk who were there to socialize and enjoy themselves.
I was amazed by a sprightly lady of 97 years who empathasized with my Mum’s apprehension and gave truly encouraging support. Such a wonderful human being who also knew all the words to Elvis Presley’s Twelfth of Never!
Then there was the opera singer. A 90 year old superb soprano who enjoyed singing Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind (which really blew my mind!), and later a song about homeless people walking the Streets of London. The latter song I knew, but she asked me to sing with her because she recognized it was about people far worse off than she. The lady suffers from terrible panic attack problems but I was able to keep her focused through the medium of music. It is such great therapy. She cried when we sang and often said she “couldn’t sing anymore because it was too beautiful”! But she kept on singing and her voice was enchanting.
Back home here with my lovely family and reflecting on the trip to give care to my Mum I am reminded that even though I was “alone” over in England, there were so many kind family and friends in Europe and America who helped me through the impossible times.
To all of you who called, or wrote encouraging words and offered advice and prayers…….THANK YOU!
To Karen, another wonderful professional friend at Memory Matters I am reminded of your words for care givers and partners everywhere. In times of despair: “Relax, reflect and revive your spirit”
To Cathee especially, (and with apologies to ABBA)……thank you for the music!
PS By the way you can learn about the infamous Tower of London Ravens at Legend of the Ravens.
Please don’t hesitate to share this if you believe it could help someone you know. Also remember that Memory Matters offers confidential counseling for care givers. Call 1 843 842 6688