My mum died in the early hours of this morning, peacefully in her sleep. Despite her dementia, she has remained physically strong and robust over the last four years. After each knock, scrape and illness, she has recovered completely, regaining her original strength. But not this time. Two falls and an infection less than a week ago led to her rapid and sudden decline. My sister and I have been keeping vigil since 23 December.

A life that touched many others

I have longed for the time when her distress would at last be over. Yet no doubt it won’t make her departure easier to bear. She was such a kind, caring and humble person. She will be dearly missed, not just by close family. I have recounted in another post how she had a profound effect on two women who became great friends following her unthinking acts of kindness. Even in the ward where she stayed for the last few weeks the staff found her engaging and charming. One nurse was shocked when she returned to work after a few days off to discover mum had become ill so suddenly. She welled up as she explained that she couldn’t believe it. Only last week, mum was talking Cantonese to a Chinese cleaner from Hong Kong, where both women lived for many years. The cleaner explained her shock and sadness at mum’s deterioration. Yesterday, a carer was in tears as she said her last goodbyes.

Great care in final weeks

It’s ironic, but at the end of her life mum finally got the really good care she needed. She had recently been moved to a dementia specialist ward in a community hospital very near the village where she grew up. The ward, which has 12 en suite bedrooms is more like a care home than a hospital. It has a communal lounge for all the residents, cosy smaller lounges for when residents want some peace or to meet their visitors, free access to a secure outside area, and a noticeboard full of regular activities which include trips out and visiting choirs.  

Of course, most of this is standard in care homes. What makes this place different is that the staff are clearly well trained, and there are enough of them to meet the complex personal, social and mental health needs of their residents. Watching the staff interact with residents is delightful. There’s no sense of staff needing to get on and residents being in the way. Instead residents are asked to help out. You sometimes see residents sitting in the office area with the nurses. Gentle banter keeps the mood light when its necessary to divert or distract. On an early visit, I was surprised and delighted to discover that mum was out at the nearby church. The staff had understood from her notes she was a committed Christian and organised for her to attend the weekly church service. For once, the claim that a place is ‘dementia speciliast’ means something.

Mum’s Christmas presents remain unopened

Last wishes

As my mum hovered in the halfway house between life and death, the care staff did all they could to make her final days comfortable and pain free. They ensured her end of life wishes were met. They organised for a vicar to visit on Christmas day. Reverend Kofi had already been busy leading Christmas services in Cardiff. He was just about to to spend time with his family, but drove the 40 minutes to Penyfai to hold a short and touching service for our close family. Mum’s own vicar, Reverend Philip had been to visit mum the previous day.

While this is a difficult and sad time, I feel so grateful that mum was receiving the very best care in her final weeks, that her lifelong faith was honoured until the last, and that she is finally at peace.

23 thoughts on “Mum dies peacefully

  1. Julia, please accept my condolences on your loss. My mum, who had dementia for several years, also died very suddenly, on 23 October – a fall and a succession of infections left her with very poor mobility and we had to move her to a care home (the same one Dad had been in ahead of his death last October) where she suffered a massive heart attack the very next day. It is a relief when their suffering is over, but still very hard to deal with, especially when it is so sudden, after years of slow decline. You can also be assured that you did your very best by your mum right up to the very end. All the best to you and your family at this difficult time.

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    1. Thank you so much for such kind words Helen. Gosh it sounds like you have been through the mill with both your parents. It does take its toll after years of slow decline, but I do feel that I did the best I could, which gives me some consolation. xxx

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  2. Dear Julia, sending you a hug and my condolences on your mum’s death. What mixed emotions, of course. I am so very glad to hear what excellent care she received in these last weeks and that her faith was honoured – I hope these things will give you a lot of comfort in the midst of your sadness. And good to know she is at peace now. There are many of your blogs I have yet to read and that I know I will find so helpful as I tread a similar path with my mum. Thank you for sharing her, and your experiences, with us. Thinking of you.
    Sarah

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  3. You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your mother. She is at peace now and you can move forward knowing that you gave her everything you could during her difficult journey. Thank you for sharing intimate details of your time together as it helps the oh-so-many of us in similar situations.

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  4. I am very sorry to hear of your mum’s passing, Julia. What special memories you have created with her, alongside offering inspirartion and encouragement to many others caring for a loved one under similar circumstances.

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  5. Dear Julia, So sorry to hear that. We were just talking about you and your Mum with my parents earlier today. What a lovely photo of her on the photobook. She was a wonderful person and brought love and joy to many. It must be both a relief and a terrible sadness for you all. With love and prayers. Peter

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    1. Thank you Peter. She will be very much missed. She really treasured your loyal and kind parents and we enjoyed talking about them often. Your mum’s many cards were a great topic for conversations. Such happy memories. I never sent you a link to the photo book which your parents are in. Must remember to do that. Will write a post about it here eventually. Much love xxx

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  6. Thinking of you Julia and sending hugs. Never forget how much you did for your mum to make sure she received the best care and her own choices. I’m glad she died in a caring place surrounded by you and your sister and dedicated staff. She sounds an amazing woman. Take care of yourself Julia and accept whatever support you need to get through. Sue x

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  7. Dear Julia, many condolences and much love to you. You have been such a thoughtful and wonderful daughter to your mum and despite some of the difficulties you worked through together, it’s always been such a pleasure and inspiration to read.
    Your mum was obviously well loved and she sounds like such a kind and gentle person. I am sending you my very best wishes, I hope 2020 brings you much joy. Love, Sally xxx

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  8. Dear Julia, I was so sorry to hear about your dear Mum. From reading your blog you have been an amazing daughter and sharing your experience has helped many others, thank you so much.
    Wishing you peace and rest at this very sad time,
    Jane

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  9. Just yesterday, we again contemplated putting my mom in a care home. Your posts have been a blessing and I thank you for having begun this blog.

    Wishing you strength and peace as you move onward into a world where memories make up who your mom is.

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    1. Thank you. It is truly heartening to know that my posts have helped you as you struggle with these very difficult decisions. I’ve heard from others that care homes have completely worked for their loved ones. So maybe try respite as way of seeing how your mom gets on. Sending love and warm wishes, xxx

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