Gwen cared for her mum, who had Alzheimer's disease, until her final years. Following the recent death of someone else with dementia, Gwen had a dream about her mum and wrote this emotive poem when she woke up.
My mum, Jane, was beginning to get confused and frustrated when she was in her early eighties.
We didn't realise but my sister, who is a nurse and lived near Mum, noticed that she was becoming withdrawn. Mum had always been one for a party and very sociable.
My sister thought something was wrong so eventually we persuaded Mum to have a memory test when she was about 83.
She was still very independent and was easily able to count backwards in sevens and know who the Prime Minister was. We thought all was well and she was just getting forgetful.
A change in Mum
When Mum was 85, her mood and health deteriorated. She refused to go out, saying she would when her non-existent cold got better.
We couldn't interest her in anything. She was getting very frail, falling a lot at home and having many spells in hospital. There were added complications and infections that caused more confusion.
Eventually, we paid for private carers to go in to her home each day, in addition to having my sister be her primary carer. I live further away so tried to relieve my sister during school holidays and weekends, as I teach.
We were determined to keep her in her own home for as long as possible and it worked well for several years.
The carers were my sister's friends and they were wonderful. They enabled mum to have her independence.
A dignified end
Mum was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she was 85.
Eventually, we moved her to a nursing home in her final years of life. She died a few months before her 90th birthday.
I am grateful that we were able to give her a good quality of life during her illness. Her carers - both at home and then in the nursing home - were wonderful.
Mum had lots of attention from a loving family and had a dignified end with her family at her bedside.
I am grateful also that she never got to the stage when she didn't recognise us, her daughters.
I wrote the following poem recently as I heard of someone else that I knew had passed away with vascular dementia and he was on my mind.
Mum popped up in my dreams and I wrote it straight away when I woke up just feeling so incensed that another life had been taken, in this case prematurely in his sixties.
The Silent Killer
By Gwen Barnes
In loving memory of my mum who passed away in 2016 after a long battle with Alzheimer's.
I dreamt about my mum today
a cruel disease took her away
it crept up upon her from behind
and slowly crushed synapses in her mind
I watched it happen
I couldn't fight
I was powerless, as she was
in it's might
I sometimes hear the latest news
the scientists have made
the next breakthrough
but this killer is still at large
it's appetite is on turbocharge
it's killing millions in it's wake
it must be stopped
for humanity's sake
So all I can do is hope and pray
that it doesn't get me one day
there's evidence to suggest it will
by then there may well be a pill
to cure this dreaded predator of the brain
to let old age have it's longest reign
to enjoy this life, to be fit and well
until it's time to bid my last farewell.