One small step for Mum & Dad, one huge step for love

Mum normally does not get going until about 8 or 8:30. Today, she was up well before that. Probably around 6:30am. When i asked why she was up so early, she said it was because something big was going to happen that day. And again I am reminded that Mum is fully aware of what this day will bring.

Mum & Dad, walking into Lovely Banks in Cobden

We’ve talked about that, my sisters and I. We’ve often wondered whether Mum really has a complete understanding of what is happening. I mean, how do you just move away from your husband of 57 years? How do you leave your family home? How do you just walk into a place like Lovely Banks, knowing it will be your last move before you die? How do you do any of that without breaking down, or worse, throwing a tantrum and digging your heels in?

Mum & Dad, December 19, 1953 married at the Leigh Memorial Church, Lithgow, NSW

I can think of two reasons. The first is that even though Mum is suffering her delusional fantasies, and she sometimes has trouble interpreting reality, she has enough of a handle on what’s going on to know that she needs this level of care. The second is that she knows Dad can’t be here carer anymore. Dad has chronic back pain, and so the lifting, the care, the pure and simple everyday being there was just getting the better of him. It was nothing for him to be up two or sometimes three times a night helping the disoriented love of his life to the toilet and back to bed again.

Settling in. The wonderful staff take Mum and Dad through some basics.

Dad told me tonight that this afternoon he has asked Mum, “You know why this was necessary, don’t you?” and Mum had said “Yes, because we couldn’t go on doing what we were doing anymore.” Some nights, Dad only had three hours of sleep. If even young guys have trouble coping with that, we can understand a 78 year old will never be able to manage it..

I think this says a lot about the love that Mum & Dad have for each other. Love is not doing what you want. If it was, Mum would still be home, irrespective of what harm it brought her and Dad. But that is not what love is. Love is a decision. Often and joyous one, but sometimes a painful one: to deny yourself, your wants, your comforts, and to consciously and selflessly do what the other person needs. So, as hard as it is, Mum decided that she had to make the move. That level of maturity, and that depth of love, is inspirational.

It’s a divine decision. It’s the sort of decision Jesus made, when he turned his back on his glory and made himself nothing for us. He denied his own wants and comforts, and instead he consciously and selflessly did what others needed.

Mum’s new room on Day 1

So we lie down in our beds tonight. Dad is alone in his room. Mum is alone in hers. And there is love. And there is peace. And we are thankful that God has led us through this day.

Have a read of Psalm 91. It’s brilliant!

Q: What do you think about love being defined as self denial and a decision to serve the other? is this actually doable? Leave a comment…

Grace and peace: Dave

Moving Mum

Want to know what it’s like to check your Mum into full care? I don’t know either, but one thing’s for sure: I am about to find out…

I am on a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne. This will be followed by a two and half hour drive to Victoria’s western district. Tonight I will stay at my parents’ home. It will be the last night Mum and Dad will spend together in their family home. I don’t think the momentous nature of this change has settled on us just yet.

Mum, March 2010

So, it all started about three months ago. I was visiting Mum and Dad on one of my ‘flying visits’: quick mid week jaunts where I would stay over with them for two nights and then return home. Mum, Dad and I were to go next door to have tea with my sister Jo and her husband Fred. Jo was picking up some tea on the way home from work. So here we are, waiting in my parent’s lounge room, and Mum simply said “Do you think Jo will have enough food for all these people?” The phrase “all these people” took me by surprise: there were only the three of us in the room, and with Jo and Fred, that still only came to five.

“What do you mean, ‘all these people, Mum?’ There are only three of us, and then Jo and Fred” I said.

Mum gave me a bit of an odd look. Like she knew I was right, but also that there was some other reality invading hers…

I don’t think the momentous nature of this change has settled on us just yet.

Chatting with Jo later that night I learned that these ‘visions’ had been happening from time to time.

Then, two weeks later, I called Mum to see how she and Dad were going. Mum asked me whether I had heard what had happened earlier that morning. I hadn’t. So she told me: mum explained how that morning she had fainted, and she thought she had died, and that some people revived her, but now everything was OK. Or so her story went.

Since that time there have been a good number of other stories, all with a similar cast of other people. For some reason, they all seem to be dressed in black. We have come to call these people ‘the men in black’. These apparently benign and everpresent figures are very real to Mum. The problem is they are not real to anyone else who might be present at the time…

At this point, we have learned not to challenge the existence of the Men in Black, or anything else that Mum may “see”. Instead, we have decided to explore Mum’s experiences with her. We ask her what the Men in Black are doing, or what they are saying. I think this has helped ‘normalise’ Mum’s experiences for her, and I’m sure that if we challenged her every time she mentioned them, she would only become distressed. So our goal has been to keep things as normal as we can for Mum. It seems, at this point, to have been a successful strategy.

In the last three months Mum’s delusional ‘realities’ have made their presence felt in our lives. While we are still waiting for an official diagnosis, it seems that Mum is being drawn into the world of some sort of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In way, the diagnosis is kind of academic. Whatever it turns out to be, the ACAT clinician says Mum should go into full care, and hence this plane trip. And this blog post. And the ones that will follow.

In the next few posts I want to explore this time of transition for our family, in the hope that it may be helpful for others in the same position. And, of course, I’ll keep you up to date with how it all goes.

Q: Have you ever had to check a parent or loved one into full care? How did it go? Feel free to share your experiences by posting a comment.

Grace and peace: Dave