Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Meeting my mother-in-law again, teaching me about alzheimers and dementia

Through no fault of anyone really but through circumstances I haven't had very much contact with my kids Nanny on their Dads side.  A little dot of a woman, who in my memory of her when him & I first got together was fiercely protective of her family and very proud of her kids. She always struck me as someone not to mess with, but if she accepted you she'd be as welcoming and loving as if you were her own flesh and blood. 

Now this woman, who'd worked all her life, who had a wicked sense of humour and a sharp eagle eyed brain, came to visit us for the first time in 3 years. Hubbie had told me that she was suffering with Alzheimer's and dementia and over the last few years it had really taken its toll.  He warned me that she might not know who I am or that she might say something inappropriate so I was fairly apprehensive about the visit.

Having heard about Alzheimer's from the media and from friends who work in the elderly care industry, I knew that she might become quite upset if she felt lost or she didn't comprehend what was happening around her which is totally understandable.  I was worried that the kids would freak her out, or not be gentle and frighten her with their loud boyish behaviour.  She is very very fragile, being very underweight but apart from needing to bulk up a bit she is surprisingly fit ( well maybe not surprising, she has good strong Irish genes running through her core ).  

Anyway I really didn't need to worry about any of these things.  After the long journey up Hubbie brought her in to the house and while she looked tired, she immediately gave me a massive cuddle, and said "I haven't seen you for such a long time Caroline" I nearly burst into tears there and then.

We settled her in with a cup of tea, I put her slippers on for her and the kids settled down next to her on the sofa.  For the next few hours we talked, drank tea and smoked cigarettes (in the garden).  Rather than being overwhelmed by being in a strange environment she seemed to relish it, constantly remarking on how lovely the house is, rather than not remembering who I was, it was if I had seen her last week with the warmth and friendship still strong. The children adored being with her and she in turn was gentle and calm with them, watching them playing and commenting on how like their father they are at the same age (like we all didn't know lol) 

I found her a proud woman still, wanting to be productive and feeling apologetic when I would help her, though I constantly told her it was my pleasure.  She couldn't quite remember the names of all our animals though to be fair I have trouble sometimes, but she would ask their names when she'd forgotten them as it seemed knowing this was important. Sometimes I would look at her and she seemed lost in thought which maybe she was, but she would come round quite quickly when she saw a familiar face which I was grateful mine was one of them. There was none of the aggression that I had read about, and I tried to involve her with all the conversations that were going on, asking her opinion or her advice, or asking her to draw on a memory from long ago.  We talked of Hubbies dad and how she always wishes him a goodnight still, and the day he left our lives. I told her I think he's been to visit since then and that pleased her.

So for me it seemed for the most part she was lucid, engaged and involved with the family and not this distant vacant shell of a person I was worried I would find.  For the most part she was still my mother in law of old. But sometimes, when she got tired, or when the kids had got too much, she seemed to lose herself, and where she was, the confusion clouded her face but I would spot this quickly, draw her attention and engage her again and this seemed to help a great deal.

It was a lovely 2 days, and I was extremely proud of how the kids fussed and showered Nanny with affection, sometimes to the point it left her speechless.  We all agreed that the trip had been a success and that Nanny was to definitely come and stay again,  hopefully her second visit will be as successful, as she's already mentioned a BBQ in the summer and I suggested a little walk round our lovely town as well for next time.

We don't have links to the past for long and I am just so glad we've still got enough time for the children to benefit from both Nanny's and to get to know both sides of their heritage, she also allows me a little look into where my Hubbie comes from too :-).

Roll on the next visit, though will remind Hubbie to bring her coat with next time bless her and I will make sure there is lots of bacon in lol !!!

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