Jenny’s story: ‘After Mum died, I found a way to channel all that heartbreak into something positive’

Jenny Arnot’s mum sadly passed away in January last year. Read how a new recipe book is helping Jenny come to terms with her grief while raising funds to support people affected by dementia.

When I started to notice changes in Mum’s behaviour, at first I thought it was just old-age. A bit of forgetfulness is surely to be expected as you get older, right?

But when she began to forget how to perform simple, everyday tasks – such as making a cup of tea – I started to worry it was something much more serious.

Mum was diagnosed with dementia in 2013, though it was never confirmed what type. This marked the start of a new journey for our family – and life was about to change dramatically.

Jenny and her mum

Jenny with her mum

Rapid changes

After the diagnosis, it was no longer possible for Mum to live in her beloved cottage in Kent. She moved to a retirement flat in Surrey where she could still live an independent life, but also be close to me so I could care for her.

Unfortunately the dementia advanced significantly. I feel like this was partly related to the move and it wasn’t long before a care home was our only option.

Mum never settled in the care home and, within weeks, her condition deteriorated even further until she had a fall and was taken into hospital for observation. Once mum was admitted to the hospital, I received the devastating news that the care home would not take my mum back as her dementia was too advanced. My mum remained in hospital for nine weeks right up until she died in January 2017.  

It was the most challenging time of my life, seeing the person I loved – my hero, my rock and my go-to – slip away. Although still physically recognisable, she became a stranger to me and it broke my heart.  

Getting through each day

After mum passed away I started to read more about dementia and took an interest in Alzheimer’s Society.  This is something I should have done when mum was first diagnosed – I wasn't aware of what they could offer.

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They could have helped my mum live better with dementia and supported me through the toughest times. I thought I was coping, but, with hindsight, I was just getting through each day as best I could.

It was while looking into the charity that I decided to raise funds to help them support people living with dementia like my mum. I knew I could use my work contacts with major food and drinks brands to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s Society. 

Finding the positives

The company I work for, Avansa, named the Alzheimer’s Society as our charity of the year and we set about creating a charity cookbook.

It turned out to be a really cathartic process to help me come to terms with the grief of losing my dear mum. I could channel all that heartbreak into something more positive.

'My mum was an amazing cook and some of my fondest memories are of her in the kitchen cooking for us or our friends.'

The project soon snowballed, with many of our clients more than happy to get behind us. We raised over £9,000 to produce and publish 3,000 copies of a cookbook called ‘Unforgettable Recipes’.

The book contains 46 wonderful recipes, all hand illustrated by an incredibly talented young artist. As well as the amazing support of my colleagues and clients, we also received two personal recipes from Great British Bake Off finalise Miranda Gore Browne! 

Overwhelming support

Since the book was printed we’ve worked tirelessly selling copies via our website, as well as gaining support from local stores to stock the book.

We’ve been out and about supporting local village fairs in the run up to Christmas and have even been interviewed for BBC Surrey Radio! We’re well on track to raise £30,000 for the charity and can’t thank everyone enough for the support we have received so far – it’s been overwhelming.

Producing ‘Unforgettable Recipes’ has been hard work, but it’s so satisfying when you realise how many people are touched by dementia. This book has already opened so many conversations with friends, family members and in our community; I hope it can help people like my mum.

Find out more about Unforgettable Recipes

Learn more about about the recipe book Jenny created and buy your copy here. 

Find out more
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4 comments

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Thank you Jenny for your emotional story & the good that has come from this difficult time. I was in a similar position in 2013 & lost my Wife Pauline in 2016. As a Memorial, & to help other people get the NHS to fund care services where the medical condition is "complex", I launched a website on https://continuinghealthcare.wordpress.com/
Thousands of people have visited, & several known to me have got fully funded care for their loved one.
Best wishes. Peter Garside.

Dear Peter, thank you for your kind comments. I’m so sorry to hear you lost your wife, Pauline to this cruel disease. It sounds like you too have found a way to channel your grief into something to help others who are suffering, well done to you. Kind regards Jenny

Sad buts lovely and very emotional story my Sister was diagnosed in March this year age 62 years of age l am finding it difficult at the moment l get some comfort from you E Mails.

Dear Agnes, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister and I know how hard this is for your sister and for you. You will find that some days you will be so angry that your sister has dementia and other days you will just cry at the overwhelming sadness you feel. My heart goes out to you, just tell her often you love her and you will find an inner strength you didn’t know you had to help you through the dark days. Jenny x

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