By Diane Jones
Being married to my dad who was a Company Sergeant Major in the Armed Forces, meant that as a family we moved a lot, but my Mum took this all in her stride, being the lady that she was.
She had her 3 daughters, and to her, we were her life.
My Mum left school very early, and went to work for Moss Bros Tailors. She was very good at her job. She always made sure that her girls came first.
Mum started to take in sewing and the more she done, God – she was alight! I can remember her smile, beaming. She loved anything to do with sewing and knitting.
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Oh Lord – the knitted cardigans we had to wear! I can laugh now – even at the pea green trouser suit she made for me which she made we wear! But I loved it as my Mum made it just for me specially. Mum would sew and watch tennis on the TV at the same time.
Mum smoked and hardly ever drank, only an occasional Cinzano & Lemonade, other than that it would be a Bitter Lemon. Mum never swore, and God help us if we did!
Mum loved her Army family life, and after Dad came out of the Army, they continued moving around a lot. We often used to tease her by saying “Mum, are we a travelling family?”. She would nod her head and say “No love!”.
Mum always made me feel safe and secure. Over the next few years, Mum and Dad went back to their roots, back to Leeds where they were born, and back to their memories of their childhoods and their courting. It was lovely listening to their stories and them taking me back to some of the places that still existed. Knowing that they had been there made me feel sort of warm inside. I stayed in Newbury, as I met my husband Tony.
I often travelled up to Leeds to see Mum and Dad, but I started to notice a change in Mum. Just little things at first – like she would keep asking how many sugars I took in my tea, and then forgetting when she got to the kitchen. Then things were being found in the wrong places, like the teapot in the bread in. One day, she managed to put her dress on back to front.
This was not my Mum. She also began to hide things under pillows and down the back of radiators. We as a family decided to get Mum assessed to see what was going on. What the Doctor had to say to us would change all our lives from that day forward.
Mum just went downhill. I lost count of how many times she would walk round the same table, muttering to herself, not knowing what she was saying or doing.
Mum had been diagnosed with Dementia – Alzheimers Disease. What was this? We were all so scared, and Dad Oh God, my poor loving Dad, asking me if it was him that made Mum do the things she was doing. I had never ever seen my Dad look as scared as I did that day. My heart sank. Dad asked me why had it happened to the love of his life, our Mum? I couldn’t answer him – what could I tell him? I knew nothing really of this condition. All I knew was that I had to be strong for both Mum and Dad, and for myself. I wanted to be there for both of them.
For some reason, and I don’t know why, Mum, who had smoked for all her adult life suddenly just stopped. It was like she had forgotten that she had ever smoked at all.
Mum’s condition deteriorated. My Mum, who never swore, started swearing with words that we never thought she knew. My Dad was devastated by what was happening to his beloved Janet. But still my words could not comfort him. I was not a Professional, but this was my parents that were going through this. It felt like I was going towards a black tunnel, but not getting any nearer to the end of it.
How could I make my Dad really understand that this was none of his fault?
We met a lovely man called Karlos Ispan from the Alzheimers Society who helped us to understand what was going on in my Mum’s mind. We were told that she would remember things from years ago, but would not recall what happened 10 minutes ago. Mum started talking to people who we couldn’t see, but we were told that if Mum said they were there, well they were! So we had twin boys now in our family! It was strange, but I would do anything for my Mum if it brought a smile to her face. I would do anything for this very special lady.
It all got too much for Dad, and in the end we had to listen to reason and not just our hearts and we did something that we all swore we would never do. We put our beloved Mum into a Care Home, where she could get the help and care she needed. We got her settled in and made her room lovely with all her own things in it.
We went to visit Mum, but my Dad could not handle seeing the way my Mum was walking round, feeling the wallpaper as she went around and around. As I watched Mum in her own little world, Oh how I wondered what she was seeing and thinking? Did she know us? We had to think that she did. Every day Dad went to see Mum. He sat with her, held her hand and spoke to her. It brought tears to my eyes watching them. This was not how they were meant to spend their retirement.
That night, I went back to the flat where I was staying and I sat down and cried, thinking why did this happen to my Mum who I loved so much? She had always been there for me, so now it was me who would be there for her. I decided that night I would I would try and get my Mum, the Mum I knew, back, even for a short time.
I would talk to her and remind her of the things she loved and the people she loved. As Mum had always worked with her hands with material and wool, I made her a small blanket with all different textures of materials and buttons etc., for her to feel while she sat in her chair. A smile came over her face, and I hoped and prayed that deep down she knew what it was.
I began to notice with Mum that every time food was put in front of her, she would just eat and eat as if she had not eaten before. When she had finished, you could have put another lot of food down and Mum would eat that as well. Where was her memory going? I wished I could have done more. Mum thought I was her Mum and it was very hard trying to be a woman I had never known.
Now, no noise was coming out of Mum’s mouth. She also stopped walking, and started sleeping a lot more. Sadly, Dad passed away not long after Mum stopped walking. I know he had Lung Cancer, but deep down I think he was just heartbroken as Mum couldn’t do anything for herself.
I decided that this condition needed to be looked into more, so I decided to raise money. I held a Charity Ball and raised £1000. The following year I held another Charity Ball and raised even more money. I also decided that I wanted to be trained up for looking after other people who suffered like my Mum. She was alone and frightened in her own little world. My Mum slipped further away from us and passed away. I know that my Mum and Dad are now back together, and that makes me very happy.
This is dedicated to my wonderful parents, Syd and Janet Foster.
My name is Diane Jones. I live in Newbury with my husband Tony. We have 3 children and 1 grand-daughter. I have been a Care Worker for the past 5 years, caring for a wide range of people, including elderly people. I have been fundraising for the Alzheimers Society for years, and I have raised thousands of pounds.
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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room