Thursday, January 08, 2009


So, I now have a mother-in-law with diagnosed Alzheimers and a mother with some sort of early dementia, as yet unspecified.

My father accompanied my mum to the GP on Tuesday and discovered that what my mother had reported back from a phone conversation before Christmas, ie that her difficulties would not get any worse, is incorrect. Was that incomprehension ( most likely) or denial?

Anyway they are going to need some support, albeit from a distance. My dad is, quite correctly, wanting my mum to maintain her routines and keep as independent as possible, but it is clear that the deficits she has suffered in language skills make social communication and even things like shopping difficult at times.

Now that is when the penny dropped. Her difficulties now are not so different to autism and therefore the sort of strategies we all use for our autistic kids, such as regular routines, visual timetables and alternative means of communication can all come into play. She occasionally gets very confused about what day it is, so I just suggested that they actively cross each day off on a calendar, so that the next morning she can see clearly the day of the week. Simple, yes. Obvious, well yes, but perhaps not if you are in the middle of it. My dad found a suitable calendar yesterday and started straight away. I think he will need to be bringing his skills as a former primary school teacher back into practice. Let's hope it helps.

If anyone has experience or tips on helping a relative with dementia, I'd be really interested to hear.

Three notable things:

1. The GP said Son 1 has 'the worst chest infection he had heard for a long time'. Strong antibiotics and inhalers were prescribed and seem to be starting to work.

2. Pressing on with the novel, slowly but surely. The words are coming in short bursts rather than a steady flow.

3. A much better mark for my second OU writing assignment, a film script. Hooray!


Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy

Sorry to hear about your mum and mother-in-law, my gran has dementia but managed to live for quite a long time on her own (with outside support during the week and her sons taking turns to stay during the weekends) but she got worse (with some other medical problems as well) and was put in a home and is now far better and terrorising the other residents with her imperious bossy ways!

Beth said...

I'm sorry to hear all that Cathy. It must be very difficult to realise things are going to be even more difficult for your family.

Beware her crossing days off the calendar several times a day. My friend's mum has dementia and repeats the same task again and again. Apparently the last time my friend was there she fed the cat four times in a couple of hours :(

I'm glad the novel is going well and that you got a better mark this time!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the useful tips - brilliant.

Well done of work on the novel :-)

HelenMWalters said...

You poor thing. You've got so much on your plate at the moment. Thinking of you x

Jenny Beattie said...

Oh Cathy, that's tough. Thinking lots about you all.

Anne Brooke said...

So sorry to hear about the family difficulties - sending heartfelt thoughts your way ... for whatever that's worth. Hope the good support you're putting in place pays dividends for you.

And well done on that mark - that's good news.

Love & hugs


Cathy said...

B, I hadn't thought about her crossing off the calendar more than once! But she is quite passive, so if she sees it as my dad's job, maybe not. Also the confusion is thankfully quite sporadic at present. Even in m-in-law, who has been diagnosed a few years, it is very variable.

Thanks everyone for all the thoughts and wishes, I appreciate them.


Casdok said...

Oh how difficult. But with your experience of autism you have much understanding and im sure can be of great support.

Lane Mathias said...

Dementia is so cruel:-(

Well done on your great mark:-)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Ouch, really sorry to hear about that. The Alzheimer's Society have loads of tips and factsheets on their website, it might be worth you having a surf around there. I came over to tell you I found your grammar poem on the Internet, see my comment on the Novel Racers' coffee break for the links. And well done with the OU assignment, that's great news.

DJ Kirkby said...

I am extremly impressed that you can write when you are in the midst of all this upheaval. Your suggestion for your mom was a great one.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your troubles. I think patience and understanding is what is needed of which I had very little when we had the farmer's dad living with us (Jim). I also found that agreeing with the patient works too as they get terribly frustrated and very moody if challenged. Makes it much more hard work for the carer.

It is interesting what you say about autism and dementia though. Funnily enough, my mum often portrays autistic traits of which my sister and I have noticed - nothing severe but definitely warranting investigation. Of course it will never be taken seriously by my mother, she can't even accept that Amy has autism.

Best wishes your son too. Sounds pretty nasty but I'm sure he'll be just fine.

CJ xx