She was 62, a proud attractive fit woman devastated at the graveside, my father had died and she could not believe it. The two years that followed saw her seeped in what we were assured was depression. She grew thin, lost interest in her appearance and housekeeping, had muddled times and seemed afraid. Following one of numerous visits to the doctor she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.


My sister and I were not shocked, as we had feared and expected the diagnosis. Hearing it spoken was still devastating. Our wonderful mother, who in recent years had become our best friend, always ready for a bit of fun, had been sentenced to Alzheimer’s.


Life changed slowly for the next two years. Each day dawned expecting the unexpected – a cooker left on with an empty saucepan, doors left open when she left the house, money burned in the electric fire, items missing – never found, taps left on. There were plenty of times through when she was as she always was.


Eventually it became apparent; it was no longer safe for her to live alone.


Her daily visits to mass made my sister frantic wondering if today she would forget the way home. She couldn’t manage alone but still she was not in need of nursing care. It was decided she would live with our family.


Those first five years were tough. Every newly forgotten thing was heart-breaking. Bit by bit our roles changed. What she had done for me as a child, unnaturally, I was now doing for her. She was fit and active, still capable but unpredictable.


She often seemed sad and lost, but never voiced any fears or made any reference to forgetting things. There were many battles, maybe trying to get her to bathe or change her clothes, or go to the toilet. She was reluctant to let go of anything as though she felt “change” and by keeping things, even her clothes, she felt safe.


At night I would lie and cry for her. Remembering when I had got mad and when the moment passed, feeling guilty because it wasn’t her but Alzheimer’s that was to blame. I felt guilt as friends and relatives would pass the door forgetting to stop and say hello. I wondered, if when she couldn’t find the right word or when she constantly searched for home, if it was like being lost in a dark tunnel with lots of channels all leading different ways, trying to find the right way out.


Many years have passed and mam is with me now for eleven years. In some ways life is easier for the two of us now, mam is calmer and more relaxed, she can no longer give out to me, though I wish she could. Other people see an old lady who cannot speak, eyes closed unaware of what is going on, but I remember.


Occasionally her lovely eyes will open and there’s a twinkle of a smile – I think she knows its me and I’ve got all the memories Mam – for both of us – love you always. Many tears shed writing it.


A.D. – Co. Galway



My father was born in 1914. It was in Dublin that he and my mother raised their family, and where he remained, living alone after my mother’s death in 1986. He grew vegetables, drove his car to mass every day, and visited each of us, his daughters in turn. However, little things then started to change, he locked himself out of the house, forgot where the car was parked, didn’t talk as much when I visited. Gradually his ability to care for himself in safety lessened thus necessitating a move to live with me and my family.


Dad’s condition worsened and eventually his remaining independence was eroded. It meant huge changes to our family life. Someone always had to be with Dad, and I literally found myself a prisoner in my own home. But I coped, caring for Dad with very little support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. However the time came when I had to accept that “no woman is an island” and I needed help and support from outside of the family unit.


I was put in touch with Western Alzheimer’s Marian House, Ballindine, a wonderful respite centre in Co. Mayo. I asked myself, could I let Dad go? Would they understand him? Mind him?


Know his ways? I rang and visited Marian House. My fears and concerns diminished. It was a warm bright home, the bedrooms had brightly coloured spreads, there was a lovely smell of home cooking from the kitchen, and most of all there was a wonderful loving and caring atmosphere for all their clients. Dad could have respite.


We called it his holiday, and for me a chance to come back and sleep for a full night and recharge my batteries. Marian House was a life line to me and my family at this time and the care my father received was second to none, Dad was loved and cared for in Ballindine, and the rosary said every day.


After lunch they sang some of the old songs, and walked out to the garden on fine days. There were plenty of kisses and hugs, and he always had a wink for his special girls in Ballindine.


Not only did I benefit from the break from Dad, but I also received invaluable support and assurance. Just simply to be told “You’re doing a great job” and to know I wasn’t alone, gave me the courage to go on.


Dad’s condition worsened, I was emotionally and physically drained, where to turn. Again Western Alzheimers came through. They had bought a new home Maryfield Nursing Home in Athenry which would offer long Term Care and thankfully I was one of the lucky ones and got a place for Dad.


Maryfield was a beautiful home with great staff. Dad spent the last 20 weeks of his life there amongst wonderful caring people and died happy, content and peaceful.


Without the wonderful care and support I received from Marian House and Maryfield Nursing Home I don’t know how I would have coped during the four and a half years Dad lived with me. To the Nurses and Staff and John Grant I am forever in their debt.


M. L. – Roscommon


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