In her second video blog, Virginia explains why she has so much admiration for the work her mum does as a carer for her Dad, who has vascular dementia.
To watch Virginia’s other first vlog post, click here.
Full transcript below:
‘Hello everybody. This is my second blog now for Unforgettable.org and this time I want to talk to you about my Mum, my hero, a carer and a wife.
‘So when we found out that my Dad had vascular dementia, obviously our first initial thoughts were to come to terms with what that meant for him, what would happen to him and what would happen over the coming years and how we were would see him change. But as time goes on, one of the things that’s always at the forefront of my mind is my Mum and how my Mum copes with it and the support that she needs.
‘My Mum is an amazing woman and she genuinely is my hero. She’ll probably cringe at the fact that I’m saying that, but I know that seeing her be so strong and seeing her cope with seeing my Dad change, become more dependent on her – mainly emotionally at the moment – is a really, really tough thing to see.
‘So I want to paint a bit of a picture about my Mum and Dad because I think that’s probably quite useful to understand. My Mum and Dad grew up in Liverpool together, they met each other when they were 13 or 14 I think, they started dating, they worked together, they got married and then they had me and my sister. And one of the things that I always remember about my Mum and Dad is how sociable they are. My Dad was always the life and soul of the party, my Mum and him loved putting on dinner parties. There were always people round every weekend, there was always something going on.
‘So I guess that’s changed now really since my dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia, because social situations for him are actually really challenging now. Being in rooms full of lots of people and with lots of noise, even if it’s people that he knows, can be really, really tough for him. He struggles with his hearing as well, which probably doesn’t help, and he sometimes just switches his hearing aid off. But actually a lot of the time you can see him just zoning out completely.
‘But seeing my mum cope with that and seeing how she picks and chooses almost the situations that she knows he’ll be okay in for a certain finite period of time gives me, not only a bit of relief to know that mum is still trying to lead a relatively normal life, but just makes me so proud of her. Because it’s tough. It can be really tough with Dad sometimes, particularly if he’s maybe feeling pretty low about himself. Putting him into a situation that maybe he doesn’t want to be in, is I think still really important because we’ve got to keep holding on to him, his mind while it’s still there and we want him to still be socially active as much as we can. I admire my mum for making the decisions she makes about when is a good time to go out and when isn’t and she gets it spot on every time.
‘One of the things that almost worries and concerns me and is on my mind a lot is about the day-to-day stuff with my Mum and how she kind of copes with it. Living with my Dad day in, day out is quite challenging at times, [he’s] mood dependent, depending on if he’s on a high, if he’s on a low. And he’s become so much more emotionally dependent on my Mum that it’s actually quite tough seeing how he follows her around a lot. He wants to know exactly what’s happening that day, if my mum deviates from the plan, if something else comes up or she needs to help my sister out with something maybe, it throws him, and it’s really hard sometimes to remember that actually that’s part of the illness, that’s part of what it’s doing to him. So actually it can be really annoying, it can be really frustrating. You just want to go, ‘Oh come on Dad, don’t be so awkward, don’t be grumpy!’ but actually it’s because things have changed and he can’t get his head around things changing. Situations that he thought he was going to be in have now changed.
‘And that can be from the tiniest thing, to when he’s setting the table for a family lunch, and one of the kids, one of my nieces or nephews, maybe sits somewhere else, in his head, they have to sit there, and if they move to there, it throws his plans, and he almost can’t really cope with it. And that’s just really bizarre, weird, I don’t know what word to use really, yeah, upsetting sometimes to see. Tiny little things to you and me become a major issue. And for my mum that’s a big thing to cope with day in, day out, but she does it so well and is so patient with him, all the time. I absolutely admire her level of tolerance with him and I mean that in the nicest possible way. But I feel exhausted after going home for a long weekend, how my mum copes with that 24/7 is just unbelievable.
‘For me, one of the things that I’m learning is about making sure that what we as a family and as a group of people that I know always surround my mum with so much love and care, don’t forget about her and don’t forget about (and she’ll probably kill me for saying this) about the love and attention that my mum needs. Because it’s like anything, any illness or disease, people always say, ‘How’s your dad doing?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, he’s fine, you know, whatever’, you kind of don’t know what to say.
But you know what, it’s my mum I worry about. She’d hate it if she ever…well she’ll probably see this now…but she’s the one I worry about. I can’t do anything about what’s happening to my Dad, you know. It is what it is. But with my Mum I just want to make sure that my Mum looks after herself, that she keeps herself fit and healthy. Because not only is it emotionally draining I think on her, I think physically as well it can become quite tough. She is my absolute hero and I love her to bits.’