Living with elderly care – the lighter side of dementia

Dementia has sadly become so much more commonplace, as people are living longer than ever before. One of the reasons I decided to write the Sell the Pig series of books was because although my mother had vascular dementia (mercifully not Alzheimer’s) she was still very amusing.

In fact, the more gaga she became, the more she would have us all in stitches, herself included, on many occasions, at some of the funny things she said. Those of you who have already read ‘Sell the Pig’ and ‘Is That Billinge Lump?’ will know that she became rather like a naughty child and loved to say ‘bum’ and ‘bugger’ as often as possible. Some of her favourite sayings and poems are reproduced in the books. If you’ve not yet read them, here’s her most famous of all, which gave rise to the title of the trilogy, ‘Sell the Pig’:

‘Mother, mother, it’s a bugger, sell the pig and buy me out.’ It’s an old saying, about a young man not enjoying military service and writing home to persuade his impoverished farming family to cash in their only investment to secure his early release. Mother always claimed that it was an uncle of hers who had first used the phrase, although there is no way of knowing if that is true or not.

When she could no longer manage on her own because of her dementia, and when home care proved totally inadequate, Mother had to move into a care home. She went to stay in a lovely one, in her native St Helens, where her elder sister was also a resident. She was extremely well looked after there. She was happy, we were happy.

Mother2 Sept 2005Mother in the care home, with her favourite toy dog, Baby,who gave the carers many a fright, thinking he was real!

Sadly as her health declined she was in need of a higher level of nursing care, for which we moved her to a home in Wales, nearer to where my brother lived and where I was temporarily staying. Things there were not a huge success and she was clearly not nearly so happy.

Carmarthen museumMother on a visit to Carmarthen Museum, after she made the move to the nursing home in Wales

When my brother and I first started mooting the idea of us all moving to France together, all the staff at the nursing home thought we were completely insane and would kill Mother off before we even got as far as the channel tunnel. Only her GP was supportive. His attitude was very much ‘she’s 89, with not a very brilliant prognosis. Why not give her one last adventure?’

Mother had always been quite adventurous. She had often visited me when I lived in Germany, usually making the long journey by coach herself and being quite undaunted. We told her we were taking her to France for a holiday, rather than worrying her with the thought of it being a permanent move. She was apprehensive about the journey itself, but not about the adventure. She said if she could just go to sleep and wake up by magic in France, she would love to go.

So the idea for her last big adventure started to take shape and  my brother and I were to spend many hours plotting and planning to bring it all about. When we finally found a suitable house, and brought pictures to the home to show Mother, she suddenly started to recover some of her spark and show a bit more of an interest.

Planning the great adventure with Mother, at the nursing home in Wales
Planning the great adventure with Mother, at the nursing home in Wales

This is a brand new blog, to support the Sell the Pig series of books, with the idea of sharing with you some of the photos of the people you have read, or may read about in the future. So don’t forget your input – who or what would YOU like to see photos of?