12 months ago yesterday i lost the most wonderful lady i had ever had the pleasure to know; my beautiful mom. my mom was diagnosed in May 2010 (but had vascular dementia in a milder form since around 2007). the day she was diagnosed i had accompanied her to see a geriatrician after working a night shift at the local hospital. when the doctor spoke the words, my heart broke and i wept. i knew that this meant my beautiful mom would continue to lose control of her independence, memory etc. and sure enough, bit by bit she began to deteriorate. she continued to live at home until December 2011 when due to becoming extremely confused and wandering in the night, we took the heartbreaking decision to place her in a specialist dementia care home. we found a really plush and extravagant (and expensive) care home with the intention of spoiling her in the time that she had left to enjoy it. i know that she deteriorated once in there and even now i feel such guilt that we placed her in a home. i wish more than anything that circumstances had been different and i had a bigger home and enough money to have given up work to look after her. prior to going in the home, she would spend each weekend with me and my partner and adult children. she loved being with us and i loved spoiling her. im not going to lie as at times it was hard going...the constant repetitiveness of comments or questions, the lack of conversation, the wandering at all hours. However, these memories are precious, so so precious. mom and i were close and she was so proud that i was a children's nurse and would always tell me how proud she was of me and how good i was. it was only after she had gone that i realised i never told her how proud i was of her for the person she was (she was amazing, caring, loving) and how proud i was to call her my mom...i now regret this deeply. i hope she didnt see the sorrow, the horror in my face as the condition took her further away from us. i hope she didnt realise when i was snappy because i struggled to cope with the same question asked for the 12th time. i hope she knew i loved/love her so deeply and am so grateful for the life and the love she gave to me.
as i said she went into the care home in December 2010 and we were regular visitors there. they had a lovely bistro cafe place and we'd sit and sup hot chocolate by the cupful. in the nice weather of April 2011, we'd sit outside in the beautiful grounds just 'being' together. i started taking lots of photos of us together once she went into the care home. as you can imagine i cherish these now. it was as though i knew what was coming, even though i didnt.
in May 2011 mom's sister took her on holiday to Ireland to visit her sister's. mom was so happy. she adored her family and as the dementia took hold, she spoke of her brothers and sisters often. mom was 1 0f 15 and had a very happy childhood. my sister and i set about buying her new clothes, underwear, coat etc for her holiday (we wanted her to feel and look fantastic). we organised euros for spending money and sorted her passport etc and gave them to her sister for safe keeping. we kissed mom goodbye (praying that they looked after her properly and kept her safe). little did we know that this was the last time we would see mom well!
on May 15th 2011 we received a call to inform us that mom had suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma. we flew over to Ireland on the first available flight and nothing would prepare me for the sight of my mom. she lay rhythmically fitting in her hospital bed, making strange sounds and jerking movements. i remember scooping her in my arms and sobbing uncontrollably. we spent the next 14 nights by her bedside as she lay in a coma; fitting, choking on secretions and wasting away. on the 15th day the consultant agreed for me to fly mom home. i pushed so hard for that and was determined that she was coming home to die surrounded by friends and grandchildren etc. we payed for a private air ambulance to transfer me and mom back to birmingham. i had to sign a waiver in case she died mid- flight. back in birmingham we spent 7 nights in our local hospital receiving sub-standard care...it was horrible. in Ireland we had been in a rural hospital and the staff had treated us all (especially mom) with such dignity and care. we will be eternally grateful. after 7 days at our local hospital, i arranged for mom to be transferred to Marie Curie hospice to spend her final days. mom had worked at this particular hospice prior to retiring and had been so happy there. i could not think of a more fitting place for her to pass away. we arrived on 6th June and some colleagues of mom's who still worked there came to pay their respects. on 8th June mom died with her children and one of her granddaughters by her side. im not going to lie, it was an horrendous death, peaceful but so horrible. she hadnt had any nutritional support since slipping into the coma 4 weeks previously and part of me thinks we allowed her to starve to death. i lost count of the amount of times i raised this with the doctors and queried pain relief and glucose and other things. being a nurse doesnt always help in these situations because you tend to have a greater knowledge which can make things even more traumatising.
now i am left bereft without her. i try to focus on the time i had with my mom during my childhood and all the good times we shared over the last few years. however, i feel cheated and angry mostly. however, i will do all i can to try to ensure that each day i do something in my life of which my beautiful mom would be proud
Barbara Ann Harwood i love you with all my heart, thank you for being my mom xx