Sue’s mum Margaret is 90, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia six years ago. Here Sue discusses her current situation, caring for Margaret. She also offers her experience and advice on looking after a loved one with dementia during Christmas.
Mum was a maths teacher up to retirement. She and my father were members of the Caravan Club for over 50 years – always taking caravan holidays, in UK and Ireland. They also owned and managed a small fishing caravan site until well into their 80’s – this was ‘their life’ – both enjoying the out-of-doors.
Mum has always enjoyed any opportunity to go out for a ride in the car, in her wheelchair to visit a local lake and weekly Singing for the Brain sessions organised by Alzheimer’s Society. She last went on her 90th birthday in October and enjoyed the fuss made of her. She has been poorly for the past month and unable to enjoy her usual outings.
Looking after mum and myself
I’ve adjusted my working life and lifestyle to enable me to be involved in mum’s care and wellbeing from diagnosis forward. I have enjoyed every aspect of my involvement in mum’s welfare. Not every day has been a good day.
I run as a way of letting off steam, me-time, and because I can! I have two amazing Runbuddies; we meet Saturday mornings and an evening or two in the week. We talk endlessly – about anything – we listen to each other unconditionally and without prejudice. We recognise that running improves our mental health and we set ourselves targets and goals.
I have run the London Marathon for the last two years, with the Alzheimer’s Society Team. Running and my Runbuddies are my life-savers and it helps me to appreciate the good things in life.
In my experience, it is important to keep the overall daily routine the same.
During Christmas we try to avoid too many things going on at once (e.g. avoid background music whilst focusing on a task or activity or engaging in conversations). We avoid too many people being together, mum does not like too much noise.
Sue’s tips for keeping a loved one with dementia included at Christmas
- If you spend time outside, an activity could include looking for holly (to make a decoration later / or to assist in this).
- If you go into town you could choose greetings cards, or a present for someone. Choose decorations or an outfit to wear on Christmas Day.
- If watching TV, maybe choose a familiar Christmas film (be aware of which emotions it may evoke) or instead listen to carols or Christmas songs.
- During indoor activity time, try greeting card preparation - maybe looking / choosing while someone else writes or being assisted with writing. This will depend on interests and abilities.
- Assisting with food preparation - e.g. mince pies or Christmas cake (putting mincemeat in pastry cases for example). Small tasks are still valuable for self-esteem.
- Definitely anything around Singing/music making. Singing for the Brain sessions are wonderful. I am a massive believer in the role that singing has played in supporting her wellbeing (and mine).
Find out more about how dementia can affect the festivities, with advice, real stories, and support.