Emma’s story – why I’m remembering a star for my mum this year
I first became concerned about my mum when she started to have difficulty with things which used to be second nature to her, like remembering her PIN number or the route around the streets of Exeter. She had always been a bright and sociable person, but she started to become more anxious. On the outside, my mum looked far younger than she was, and was fit and active, so I don’t think many people would look to dementia as the cause. As a result, it took months to get a diagnosis and made it harder to get support. Mum was eventually diagnosed with mixed dementia, and we arranged for her to come and live with us, but that wasn’t without its challenges. I didn’t know who to turn to for advice, and was so relieved when I came across the Admiral Nurse helpline.
Calling the Helpline
I arranged help in the form of companions for mum while I was at work, which worked well, but after four years, her memory started to deteriorate further, and it became clear that she needed full-time support. I called the Dementia UK Admiral Nurse Helpline for advice, and they talked me through my options including respite care for mum. The Admiral Nurse wrote me a long, invaluable email about my options in getting help. There were links in the email to a lot of useful information. It went beyond anything I had found online myself, it was so tailored to our personal situation.
We found a nursing home for mum but after six months, they said they were unable to meet her needs because mum’s behaviour had become more erratic. It came as a complete shock. I called the Helpline again as I needed to find another care home with just one month’s notice. The Admiral Nurse empathised with me and pointed me to research on how people with dementia need to be talked and listened to by people with proper training and understanding. I toured the area looking for a dementia specialist home, and when I found one 45 minutes away, everything finally fell into place.
Emma’s mum, Nancy
And then we met Linda. She was the Admiral Nurse working full time in the specialist dementia home. She saw past the previous home’s notes and saw mum as the lovely but anxious person she was. Linda said, “bring mum here, we’ll look after her.” It was an incredible relief.
Immediately, I noticed the difference in the care. Mum used to get increasingly agitated, always looking around for me. But Linda would sit with her patiently, talking to her about what was happening in the garden, or looking through old family photos. She gave mum comfort – and us too, knowing she was there with her. Linda’s compassion and understanding of dementia shone through, she brought an extra level of care and expertise that I had not seen before.
Emma and Nancy
I am so grateful for Linda
Just three weeks after moving in, mum had a stroke, and lost mobility down one side. It became clear that she was fading away – but Linda was there in these final days. After mum had passed away, Linda sat with me at her bedside and just chatted about mum, the things about her that made us both laugh. I am so grateful that mum spent her last weeks being cared for by someone who really understood what she was going through.
When you begin to lose a loved one to dementia, the special moments in life become so much more important. Trying to have one more ‘good’ birthday or Christmas. That’s when I think you really notice the changes – because what used to be a happy family occasion becomes more and more difficult each year. I always think of mum on Christmas Day sat with a glass of champagne and all the family around her. But she slipped away more each year.
Remember a star
I’ll be thinking about mum this Christmas – and Remembering a Star in her memory. I’m so grateful to have had the support of an Admiral Nurse but I realise not all of us are so fortunate and there needs to be more of them. It’s why I’m supporting Dementia UK and why I’m asking you to join me too and Remember a Star.
Please donate today, so more families like mine can have the life-changing support of an Admiral Nurse. With your help, Dementia UK can give the gift of care for families affected by all forms of dementia this Christmas.
Remember a Star this Christmas
Making a donation and adding a name to our Remember a Star tree will offer a lifeline to families dealing with the challenges of dementia at this time of year