Last Friday was extremely special. I last saw my mum face to face on Sunday 15th November 2020, so nearly 6 months on I was able to visit her at the care home. It makes me sad that she is there and that I have watched her mental health deteriorate over the last 12 years. My dad did the best he could to look after her but when he suddenly had a heart attack in September 2020 we had to make the hard decision to put my mum into emergency care. My mum has dementia and although she will explain she is 'perfectly capable of looking after herself' we know that not to be the case. I want to do all I can to support my parents, we knew realistically we could not give my mum the care she needed and had to also prioritise my dads health. In October, I was allowed into the care home to hold my mums's hand and tell her that she would not be able to come home. She looked confused, she cried, told me she didn't understand and wanted to be able to go home. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.
My mum asked every day for a month if she could go home, then she moved to the care home where she would stay permanently and had to stay in isolation for two weeks. After we visited in November she caught COVID but thankfully did not get any symptoms. She had to be isolated again for a further two weeks. Then we noticed her speech changing and it was difficult to have a conversation with her on the phone, which was our only source of contact with her. She started to slur her words and all of a sudden she could not speak properly. I desperately wanted to see my mum but was always told no, as due to government guidelines visitors were not allowed in the home while they had a COVID outbreak. We decided to start Zoom calls with her twice a week to see if this helped, while my dad still phoned her most days and slowly but surely I could see life coming back into her eyes and she seemed engaged and excited to see us. The doctors have said that it is likely my mum has lost some ability to speak due to the four week isolation, and lack of contact with her family. It makes me angry that we were unable to help her, but I know I have to put things into context. She is safe, she is being well looked after and ultimately we can't change what has happened. The whole world has suffered some unimaginable things in the last 12 months and I have heard some heartbreaking stories from close friends and on the news.
Seeing my mum shriek with laughter last week was magical. She had that mischievous look and sparkle in her eyes I remember fondly. I was due to be the only one allowed to visit and had to have a lateral flow test 30 minutes before seeing her, but I was delighted when they offered for my husband, son and our puppy Dexter to stand from a distance and see my mum too. Ironically Dexter was able to jump up, get cuddles and lick my mums face to say hello, but we weren't allowed to hold hands or hug. I have already joked to the care home manager and said I am going to visit this Saturday disguised as a dog to see if that works. You have to find ways to laugh about it. A few times my mum tried to make a dart for it, break free so that she could give us a hug and kiss but we had to back away. I know that my time will come to hug her soon.
Dementia is a terrible disease and affects many families. Alzheimers's UK estimate that 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK and this number will only increase as people live longer. It's sad to hear they estimate 2 million people will have dementia by 2050. I wanted to do my part and help in someway so in November I joined up to Quit For a Bit where I promised to not have any sugar or alcohol for a whole month. Anyone that knows me will understand how difficult it would have been for me to give up chocolate but I was determined. I was overwhelmed by the support and raised £650 for dementia awareness. I did it for my wonderful mum.