Since I got back from holiday mum has been more grumpy than usual. Sometimes she feels she has been wronged, withdraws, gives monosyllabic responses and behaves a bit like a sulky teenager. Not just with me, but with special carers that she normally gets on with. Monday is a good example of life this last week.
Hurt that ‘the others’ had left
After breakfast, mum had a short nap. When she woke, she was upset because she thought ‘the others’ had gone without her. I tried to reassure her that there were no others, though I knew from experience this wouldn’t work. A carer that mum doesn’t like was coming to take her out. Mum didn’t want to get ready; she was miserable and still wondering why the others had gone without her.
I tried a different tack. I told mum that the others decided to let her sleep, but that Kate was coming back to collect her. Not ready to relinquish her hurt, she claimed she didn’t care. But her mood lifted slightly, and she got on with putting her shoes on ready to go out. She let slip she was glad the others were coming back to get her. By the time Kate arrived mum was positively looking forward to going out for a walk. That felt like a success!
Suspicion that money had been taken
When the two of them returned mum was scowling. Kate was brimming over with joy as they’d had their most successful outing yet. Mum was giving me furtive looks that suggested she wasn’t happy with Kate. When Kate left, mum told me she was sure she’d been cheated, that there was some financial transaction where Kate hadn’t been honest. Mum regularly accuses this same carer of stealing, after she’s gone. I give money to the carers, so that they pay for mum’s coffee or tea while out, and mum doesn’t have to part with any cash.
Nevertheless, mum was sure that Kate had cheated her. This put her in a negative mood again. Instead of asserting Kate’s innocence, as I’ve done before, I said that we could count the money in the purse, check the receipt and tally it against the form Kate had filled in. This seemed to satisfy mum and eventually she settled down. I asked her to help me with some tasks to focus her mind as I cooked lunch. We then enjoyed our meal. Phew!
Upset that we were meeting my friends
Later, around 3.00 pm we started to get ready to go out again. Two friends of mine were meeting us for a short coastal walk, a rare treat for me. They know about dementia, as their recently departed mother had the condition. They would understand that my focus would remain on mum, as we walked and talked. Mum was insistent I should go without her and got a bit emotional. At this point I would normally drop whatever plans we’d had, but not this time. Caring can be very isolating, and I was looking forward to the meeting. Walking arm in arm with mum, she repeatedly told me to walk ahead with my friends. Eventually, mum relaxed and chatted happily about the dogs and children as they went by. She enjoyed her tea and cake back home. After they’d gone, mum said how nice the two women were. Hooray!
Anxiety about speaking in church
After supper, while re-watching the Easter service from Kings College in Cambridge, mum got very anxious. She thought she had to do one of the readings in church. Mum has done many bible readings over the years, so this anxiety may relate to previous times. When I reassured mum, she said she was relieved she didn’t have to do a reading, but she was still anxious. I told her I understood how she felt and gave her examples of when I’d been anxious. She was too agitated to engage with breathing and mindful exercises that have helped before. She kept saying, I’m frightened, I’m scared. I gave her an extra Oxaxepam, as is prescribed to lessen anxiety on such occasions. Nothing worked.
I tried to distract her with bedtime rituals but by now she was paralysed with fear. She kept repeating how frightened she was. Eventually, I convinced her to come upstairs, lie down on her bed and to do some breathing exercises. Lying down you are forced to breathe more deeply which helps to alleviate feelings of anxiety. The walk up the stairs also gets mum breathing deeply, so that probably helped too. Mum became gradually more relaxed and after an hour was eventually able to get ready for bed. She finally settled down to sleep at 10.00 pm when the night sitter arrived.
Exhausted, I went off to bed too.
- I have changed the name of the carer.