SON CARES SICK FOR MUM

By Her Side: George and his mother Betty

BY HER SIDE novel is about a son writing about an extraordinary experience caring for his mother with dementia diagnosis. George Hodgman was confronted with a life-changing decision when returning home for his mother’s 91st birthday. He was shocked by Betty’s ailing health and the realisation she had dementia, George put his own plans on hold to become her carer until the end. As Betty’s mind fragmented, George, from Missouri in America, rose to the challenges of caring for someone in the grip of dementia. George, 56, a former magazine editor and publisher, found strength he didn’t know he had and somehow despite his awful cooking and sometimes short temper the pair were just what each other needed. Inspired by experiences, George has penned Bettyville, which has become a word-of-mouth phenomenon. The memoir documents Betty’s final months as George stands by her side. It is an honest account of dementia, understanding and acceptance  and, ultimately, loss.Extracts from son's novel

In this special edited extract from novel Bettyville, George talks about caring for his mother and how, by losing her, he finally found himself. His mother could not live alone yet vetoed all conventional alternatives. He pretends to be in control when she said.“Do not put me in a place with a lot of old people.”  There were days he could not please her but he knew deep down that her crankiness was an act, a way to conceal her embarrassment at having to ask anything of anyone. On some days she would swing between being just about fine, barking orders at our cleaning lady, sharp enough to play bridge with her longtime partners. Yet at other times, she was a lost girl with sad eyes. I was scared I would be the one to break her. I wasn’t certain what I would wake up to. One day I discovered her trying to put her sock over her shoe.

HOW TO AVOID DEMENTIA

Reduce risk of dementia NHS guidelines:

Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Exercise regularly.

Don’t drink too much alcohol.

If you smoke, stop.

Keep blood pressure at a healthy level.

If you need practical help for someone who has dementia – or you simply want to talk to someone who understands what you are going through – contact the Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122.

There is a wealth of information at alzheimers.org.uk. His mother was scared but would not speak of her fears, they were locked up tight. She kept her secrets. I kept mine. That was our way; we struggled with words. He imagined anything made her a little happier. So knew her days were numbered in the house, built by his father. He polished the silver, fixed her meals, bought her new bracelets, left Peppermint Patties under her pillow, drove her to battalion of doctors. And her days were filled with little hurts. She bruised easily in the end and was petrified of falling. It is what she feared above all. It became hard to get my mother excited about anything, even going to the city. A few years back, when taking Betty into St Louis for the periodontist stopped at Saks department store where he wanted to buy her a new outfit.

Spotting Signs Of Dementia

According to Alzheimer’s Association, there are ten signs to look out for:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Difficulty planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar home tasks.
4. Confusion with times or places.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. Problems with speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace your steps.
8. Poor judgement.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.

After reading these signs it was then he noticed the depression had settled into her lethargy. She looked tired and was unable to summon the energy to shop for new clothes. He found it was terribly difficult when his mother was sad, angry with herself, tired of trying, even living. So found it physically exhausting and challenging even in terms of small things like remembering when all her appointments were or when she took what pill. But it was the depression he felt when she was depressed that almost slayed him the pain she felt he could not control that sent him to bed, unable to face her. It came to the point where he had to be satisfied if he could find one thing each day  a fancy dessert, a ride to a pretty place, a little gift that made her smile. Sometimes out of nowher could see the little girl my mother once was in her eyes. She was funny, sweet, bossy and mischievous. It is necessary to have regular check up to monitor changes.

So son wrote novel on extraordinary experience caring for ailing mother after dementia diagnosis to help others dealing with dementia relatives. Onus on men to care for parents is becoming a phenomenon not known in the past. It is important to get respite care to help both the carer and one cared for.

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