Real Life

In 2014, Sarah Stoner’s mum started act­ing dif­fer­ently and life has never been the same

Woman (UK) - - This Issue -

A mother’s de­men­tia di­ag­no­sis brings Christ­mas heart­break

Christ­mas in our house has al­ways been ex­trav­a­gant. Smoked sal­mon and eggs for break­fast, fol­lowed by turkey with all the trim­mings and three desserts. my mum, Jane, was a trained chef af­ter all. and when my brother, Clive, sis­ter, Emma, and I grew up, mum still en­sured Christ­mas was spe­cial for us and our dad Stephen. now I wish I’d in­grained ev­ery mo­ment into my mem­ory as, four years ago, Christ­mas for us changed for­ever.

Christ­mas 2015

By april 2015, af­ter count­less tests, she was given the di­ag­no­sis we’d all been dread­ing: vas­cu­lar de­men­tia. She was only 64. From that mo­ment, mum de­te­ri­o­rated rapidly. Some days, she’d for­get who my dad was, call­ing me in a panic to tell me a stranger had bro­ken into her home. She be­came ag­gres­sive, too. Dad strug­gled to cope and, by Christ­mas, she’d been ad­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal while we tried to sort out med­i­ca­tion to help level out her be­hav­iour.

Doc­tors al­lowed Dad to take her home for a few hours on Christ­mas Day. They spent it with my sis­ter, Emma, her hus­band, mike, and their two chil­dren, while I was with Chris and the kids at his par­ents’. Emma called me later that day to tell me that mum had tried to drink the can­dle they’d used to dec­o­rate the din­ner ta­ble and spent all day ask­ing if she could ‘go home to her par­ents’. when I saw her a few days later, I caught her in a more lu­cid mo­ment. ‘I’m try­ing so hard to get bet­ter, Sarah,’ she said. The des­per­a­tion in her eyes made me want to cry.

Christ­mas 2016

af­ter spend­ing the first part of the year in hos­pi­tal, mum was al­lowed home. She had daily car­ers to help her take her med­i­ca­tion but she was ex­tremely con­fused on an al­most daily ba­sis. She’d have con­ver­sa­tions with the kitchen bin, think­ing it was a child, or we’d catch her stroking a tea towel think­ing it was a baby. Know­ing how much pres­sure Dad was un­der, his sis­ter, Sheila, and her partner, John, in­vited mum and Dad to their house for Christ­mas. Sheila was great with mum, chat­ting away to her, even though mum wasn’t mak­ing much sense any more. Ev­ery­one had wanted a nice, quiet Christ­mas but mum spent most of it feel­ing dis­ori­ented. Back home, mum started lock­ing Dad out of the bed­room ev­ery night – she’d al­most com­pletely for­got­ten him. I de­cided to start a blog about mum, it felt cathar­tic to write it all down, switch off the com­puter and, just for a sec­ond, for­get.

Christ­mas 2017

By July 2017, Dad couldn’t cope with Mum at home any longer. She was strug­gling to even get out of bed or wash her­self. Dad ended up hurt­ing his back one day as he tried to lift her and we knew the time had come – Mum needed to be in a home. I think he felt like he failed her; af­ter all, Mum was only 67, much younger than a lot of the other res­i­dents. Christ­mas came around all too soon and Mum didn’t even know who we were. I con­vinced Dad to stay with us for a few days, and on Christ­mas Eve, we went to watch the chil­dren per­form the Nativity at our lo­cal church. Dad was quiet, and I could see him welling up dur­ing the hymns. ‘Mum would have loved this,’ he said. We spent Christ­mas Day at my brother Clive’s house. With eight grand­chil­dren, it was hec­tic, and I knew my mum would have rel­ished be­ing in the mid­dle of it all. All day, we were painfully aware that she wasn’t with us. We tried as hard as we could to have a nice day, raising a glass to Mum at the end of the meal but it was bit­ter­sweet.

Christ­mas 2018

This year, I am invit­ing Dad over to our house. It’s too dif­fi­cult to con­tem­plate yet an­other fes­tive pe­riod with­out my lovely mum. now, al­most four years af­ter her di­ag­no­sis, she’s ex­tremely un­well. She doesn’t talk much any more, and when she does, not much of it makes sense. The last few times I’ve been to visit, she’s been asleep. In all hon­esty, I’m wait­ing for a phone call to tell me mum has passed away. It’s in­evitable and I’ve just about come to terms with it, but it’s Dad I worry about now. He’s so lost with­out mum. She was the ma­tri­arch of the fam­ily. Christ­mas with­out mum will never be the same, but I’m de­ter­mined to find some of that magic again. It’s what she would want. Q To read Sarah’s blog, go to my­crazy­

Sarah (right) with her mum Jane and sis­ter Emma in 1989, and (in­set), Jane in 2014 with grand­daugh­ter Martha

Jane with hus­band Stephen and grand­daugh­ter Ma­bel

Sarah en­joys a fes­tive walk with her dad, brother Clive and mum

The fam­ily tried to en­joy Christ­mas last year but it wasn’t the same with­out Jane

Sarah’s mum and dad this Septem­ber

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