Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Dementia Blog - Part 2 - Respite

When last you left us, we had just discovered my father-in-law needed to go into hospital, and my mum-in-law needed care as she suffers from mild to moderate dementia.

During our visits to father-in-law, we discovered he had aggressive leukemia, and therefore needed an extended hospital stay and some tough chemotherapy, even to have a chance of surviving.

Clearly we needed to start planning for how to care for mum-in-law, as we were due to bring the girls home from holiday in France in just over a week and resume their lives in Harrow. How could we resolve the need to visit father-in-law in the Royal Marsden, where we would battle to get him admitted and eventually succeed, with mum-in-law in Worthing, look after the girls in Harrow and for my wife to deliver her responsibilities at work in the City ?

Luckily, (again), we knew an old friend of mum-in-law's living in Northumberland who had a career behind her running care homes. She kindly offered to take mum-in-law for two weeks respite care, so that we could start considering our options.

Before we took mum-in-law up, my wife flew back from France for 3 days, to help make arrangements and give me a break and get home for a much needed change of clothing. She helped make sure everyone was informed and agreed with the arrangements we were making. We again were lucky that the girls were happy to stay with our good friend in France until all the arrangements were completed.

My wife flying back to France to bring the girls home, I again took up care of mum-in-law. We then had a week taking turns to drive down to Worthing to care for mum-in-law before my wife drove her up to Northumberland, afterwards staying with a friend in Yorkshire overnight.

So now mum-in-law was safely in respite care, we could start thinking about longer term care options for her. What were they ? Could we afford them ?

Fortunately my wife's work were immensely understanding about our situation, and thankfully allowed her time off whenever she needed to deal with a specific and related matter.

So with one less thing to worry about, what should we focus on next ?

Dementia Blog - Part 1 - Initial Shock

Imagine your mother has been getting more forgetful over the past few years. Your father has dealt with it on a day to day basis, and so has become accustomed to dealing with the difficulties the condition causes.

And then, your father falls ill, and has to go into hospital. You live in a different part of the country, your spouse has to go to work, and you have small children at school to deal with.

How can care be provided for your mother ? What and who is involved ? How can you do your best for your mother ?

This is the situation my wife and I found ourself in recently, being on holiday in France when we were told the news about my wife's father.

We decided I should come back home early, as the girls had been missing their mother, who is the bread winner in our family.

I took over mum-in-law's care from another member of the family, all of whom had their own commitments, ranging from caring for a teenage mother and her baby to earning livings and running businesses.

The initial stages involved taking her to visit husband in the local Worthing Hospital, which of course is being threatened with closure. Is it reasonable to ask elderly people, and as we know Worthing's primary reputation is as a retirement centre for the elderly, to travel long distances to Brighton or Littlehampton for care ? Click here to vote to Keep Worthing & Southlands Hospital going in the place it is needed, local to the elderly and infirm.

Clearly this care for mum-in-law involved full time residency in Worthing, and was luckily only possible as my wife was on holiday from work and looking after the children in France. There was a limit to the amount of clothing I had brought with me, which would soon run out. What should we do next ?