Mish Mash of information and most likely not in chronological order. Please bare with me while I try to remember the sequence of events that came once we had diagnosis.
Bloody this diary malarkey (great word) is rather hard I can now see why I never had one, you really have to keep up with it or you end up like me wanting to tell you the journey but getting lost in the events. I have deleted this post a few times.
Recap: doctors visit with mum, first lot of tests completed, referred to ‘Memory team’ (quite apt) went to memory team and had more tests and the wait for the diagnosis commenced.
During this year waiting I was planning my wedding, dad was ill so many times, major infections, mini strokes, terribly bout of D&V which meant he collapsed in a hotel room only with mum to raise the alarm. Each time he had a hospital stay we would explain that he was waiting for a diagnosis. He had some stays in hospital that caused massive distress and upset to all (sometimes due to poor care). He would beg to go home, he would blame mum it was very distressing. There were calls that he may not recover and he just rallied round. We did not know if he would be able to walk me down the aisle (well walk is not the ideal term as dad is in a wheelchair). Levels of confusion fluctuated as the infections had an impact but as always, family and mainly mum just carried on and got on with what had to be done. Just before the wedding Grumpy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the memory team nurse came out and gave them both the news and commenced Grumpy on medication (not a cure). Grumpy made it to the wedding and managed to stay for a little but he was not well.
On the journey home mum said she was so scared has he kept on slumping and all she wanted to do was get him home. He had many more stays in hospital (in and out every few weeks) and it was exhausting for mum. I have to say I am in awe of my mother she is incredible.
Dad was assessed for 3 months by the memory team who came out with the medication each month after the first month they changed the medication and on the third month stopped all medication. They felt the medication side effects outweighed the benefits. By this time dad had really taken to his bed he had stopped really watching TV. He used to love all sport and watch films with mum but he no longer watched (there will be logs of moments of watching TV). He had become obsessed with hankies and a towel that he needed with him at all times, he slept a lot and if he got up he would never stay up long.
After a particular visit to hospital after a major bleed the decision mum came to was to ask for some help from carers just in the morning. We had to make our voices heard each time he stayed in we had compiled a medication list we had written ‘this is me’ we had explained fully all about grumpy and at times some wards were not good in fact there was only one stay which was when he had the bleed that we felt all his need were cared for and mum could have a break.
Its a bit late that I am writing this after 4 days away training. The journey has a long way to go but we know it’s going to have sadness and loss at the end. We have a group that helps and that group that my mum set up is called Grumpy’s groupies which is not for people of a sensitive nature. It is all women who love grumpy and who have a warped sense of humour but it keeps ups going.
So I will continue and tell you some of our joys that we have had and triumphs but also some difficulties and issues along the way that should not have happened.
Oh an a snippet from Grumpy’s Groupies as you can see it’s really helpful stuff but it keeps us smiling even when things are overbearingly awful.
Lets look back:
2017 Journey begins and diagnosis……….Mum had seen a number of changes within grumpy which made her concerned regarding his memory. The issue we have is that grumpy has multiple conditions and as many people know some can mirror Dementia Symptoms and also the medication he takes could have had an impact. However, mum had to make an appointment for dad at his local GP to talk about some of his conditions and at that appointment she raised her concern. She wasn’t sure she would raise it as she was worried about Grumpy’s reaction. However, Grumpy also said he had noticed things that he was worried about.
The doctor on this visit was one of the ‘good ones’ (sadly the surgery isn’t that good). So there and then the GP commenced the initial testing. Which went similar to this:
- name and address was given to him at the start.
- asked him to count backwards from 20
- asked him to say the months of the years backwards
- showed him a selection of pictures and one of the was a crown and he asked which picture related to the royal family.
- He then asked him to tell him the name and the address that he had given to him at the start.
On speaking to mum after she said for some he did well, he did remember some of the address and name, he was able to get half way counting and for the months. However, he struggled with the picture question and could not explain the crown being part of the royal family.
The doctor then said he has some markers that could mean he needs further testing and that he would refer to the ‘Memory team’ (what it says on the tin I suppose). He also asked for medication review, and full round of bloods to rule out any other condition that could mimic Dementia.
Grumpy went along to the memory team with mum and sister Joanna which is really important to have as many people as you can that knows them. As we also see different changes which helps the professionals to see the bigger picture. He was also sent for a CT scan.
During the months that followed dad fell unwell, had a number of TIA (mini strokes), post stroke seizures, bouts of infections which meant lots of trips to the hospital (not always a positive experience). Not having a definite diagnosis was hard as the hospital did not meet his needs at the time and a lot of this was down to not having it in black and white. I felt they dismissed us which added even more pressure.
I am going to continue to write about Dad’s journey. This is just the beginning 2017 was a hard year. I am aware it is not over and that 2018……….onwards is going to have more hard times.
A few things to note:
- keep notes if you notice changes
- during the investigations do not forget to breathe
- once diagnosis comes do not think life is over there and then
- know that dementia is a terminal illness and this can be something we need to support people understanding
- a diagnosis does not mean someone does not have capacity understand so remember how they feel about the diagnosis
- depression is a common reaction
- compassion and empathy will help you to support someone.
- plan for the future
- before diagnosis consider Lasting Power of attorney for health and wellbeing (only comes in to action when the person loses capacity).
Will be back with more experiences and progression within Grumpy’s journey.
By the way ‘Grumpy’ is a term of endearment that all his grandchildren use (because he is grumpy but it a loving way).
Blogging does not seem to come overly natural to me but I still want to promote care and promote discussion/debate. I feel the need to ensure people realise that care work is valued and should be a chosen career .
In the about me I talk about my career within the care field but I feel my caring commenced long before I got a job in care. I was always looking for someone to look after even as a child. It was who I was, I remember being asked at 14 in school about what I wished to do when ‘I grow up’ (not sure I have grown up yet). My response even then was not met with encouragement as I said I want to be a social worker or a probation officer (none of which I am ). Thing is I was not overly academic as you may notice with my poor grammar (apologies). So I wasn’t encouraged I don’t believe.
However when it came to work experience I was sent to the care home next door to where I lived. I can still remember my first day as a 15 year old going in to the home, I remember even then the home had an odour that should have been dealt with, there was not as many safety protocols in place and inspections that there are now (or maybe there was but just not followed). I was asked during this work experience to support someone to the toilet, it was a man who was around 80 I was left to take him to the toilet on my own. I was terrified but I knew instinctively that I could not allow him to feel he was a burden and that I was nervous. I knew I had to pretend it was OK, I got on with it and can still remember the first sight of a man naked from waste down. However, it didn’t stop me from deciding to do some kind of care work. What it did make me realise is that I would never do what this home did, I would never leave someone inexperienced, untrained to do such intimate support.
Care I think was a natural career for me to choose, I liked listening and giving advice to people I met who were going through difficult times, I liked babysitting, I enjoyed just helping I felt I was achieving something each time I was able to help.
Once I completed school I went to college, I was interviewed for the course ‘Preliminary Certificate in Social Care’ the tutor a glamorous lady asked me what I wanted to do and at that moment I said ‘until I do the course I don’t think I fully know’. Mum had come with me and she said to my mum ‘that was one of the most grown up answers I’ve heard’.
I went through 2 years at college (interesting time) completed GCSE and gained some good grades. I knew then I still wanted to try to become a social carer. I applied for a number of jobs in all different areas (none of them near home). I eventually got a job at a company in Cambridge working with people with Learning difficulties. It was the first step in a career that now spans 30 years. Care is a career it really is and its worth doing.
My career in care has been interesting, colourful, noisy, hard, scary, sad but mainly has been my choice it has been my passion. I want more people to know that it’s one of the best but hardest jobs you can do. It’s not valued like it should be and certainly the pay is not the best but its a career it really is. I would still choose this career all over again.
My journey to where I am now:
Senior support worker
Regional Manager of Training provider
So I will continue to try and blog about care, my family, my dad (AKA Grumpy). I will continue to highlight the good that is out there within care. I will also share when there is not so good care but will hopefully remind people that we can make it good.
Its a quick blog today to try to get myself back to it. I had 5 draft blogs that I have deleted that never came to the page. I now have added 2 more drafts but luckily today I have at least published one. If you are reading this please comment, share, add what you believe care means to you. Most of all if your reading this and you are thinking of a career and have the attributes to be part of care then feel free to check out some of the links.
I’m sat here on a bank holiday weekend feeling somewhat sorry for myself (have a bad back). I have gone through social media seen the usual posts that raise my blood pressure and seen the posts that make me smile and make me thoughtful. I have cleaned (a little), moaned at my husband (waiting to moan at the 14 year child who still sleeps). I have thought about doing some work (but I should be allowed a day off even if I am self employed). I have gone back to reading (Where Memories Go) and as I was reading it got me thinking (this would worry my husband as me thinking causes stress).
It got me thinking of when I thought I would write a book, I did commence ‘Pull up a Chair’ but can’t find it anywhere (feel sad about that). I am asking myself today if I should try and start again? Some of you will know ‘pull up a chair’ was a title my friend Valerie used to say and that it would be a no holes barred self help book but it would be blunt and no ‘oh woe be me’ type of self help. I adapted it to more of a about my life book which would obviously have Valerie within it. Over the past year things have changed in our family but I now question do I scrap it fully or do I try something new. I am not the most articulate in writing so not sure I could actually write a book.
However, today has me thinking as I sit here feeling sorry for myself. Valerie would not be happy she would give me a course in ‘get the f@ck over it’.
Blogging has become less of late I don’t really know how to make myself more visible. I still want to blog about care but not sure its the most fashionable subject or glamorous. However, I will keep trying.
Happy Sunday All and if feeling sorry for yourself then ‘Pull up a Chair’ and talk.
Me and Mental Wellbeing
Sometimes you just gets carried away and you forget to take a moment to just stop and do something as simple as sitting in the garden. At present I am working mainly doing “in house training”. On the plus side it is work (which if fantastic) on the flip side it does mean long days and quite a bit of additional travelling, which means I’ve not had time to stop, think and contemplate. Even on my trip to Brugge texts and calls were coming into my mobile and I was thinking abut work; which was not ideal
Currently, I have a number of new blog ideas and will try to get these down and posted soon. However, for now I am sat here in the garden preparing for next week, compiling a powerpoint for Mental Health Awareness training. Which has got me thinking and I decided to stop for a moment and blog.
Today while looking on information and refreshing my knowledge on Mental Health I was able to think of my own Mental Wellbeing (its not something I talk about a lot or even try to think about to much).
Like many people, I can say that periods of my life has challenged my mental wellbeing. While researching the prevalence of mental health I realised that more people develop mental health issues at a younger age. The amount of young people that suffer anxiety and depression is quite worrying. However, when I think back I realise that I suffered anxiety as a youngster, its just that the name was not used or the awareness of Mental Health was not what it is now.
Mental Health unfortunately did follow me into adulthood and its only now I admit what it is, I used to just ignore it and would never ever admit to labelling how I was feeling (not sure why but a hidden illness comes to mind). Some of how I felt was about loss of control and fear of what might happen to my family or friends and then it would build so I would feel anxious.
I am lucky I have a supportive husband who has admitted that he is still learning about Mental Health, and initially did not understand why I react to the simplest of issues in the way I did, and seemly blow them out of all proportion. Now though, he does and he helps me to structure things and take control which has helped. This has allowed me to manage my mental wellbeing to a degree .
I now recognise and am more aware of times in my life, when my Mental Well being has been challenged and I am trying to be more open and honest about my feeling and not hiding them away for fear of judgement and what might happen.(Work in progress)
Things that have helped;
- Taking control of my financial situation (thanks to my husband) as now I am not as afraid about money as I used to be.
- Autonomy within my career which has allowed me control (well some control).
- Trying to open up a little more to my husband.
- Being aware that I am not in a good place and trying to not ignore.
- Trying to organise my life a little more.
- Enjoying simple things in life.
- Sitting in the garden and just focussing on whats important.
Don’t get me wrong this is not a quick fix , but it has helped me greatly and given me peace of mind. I am hopeful that as time goes on things will continue to progress and I will continue to work on myself.
I sit here now and feel good and feel happy I can take moments like this (yes I am working but working outside has a different feeling). I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I am suffering I am not I am just sharing which I think is a massive step. Hiding is not the answer, feeling embarrassed is not a feeling we should feel, being scared to admit how we feel today is not allowing us to heal.
So today I am good but hey tomorrow it might be different. However, as I say make the most of the good days and feel alive as life will still be there and will still need you to breath. Just stop take a moment, look at the simple things like our cat Kobe needing attention from the most caring man I know.
Don’t forget to take pleasure in the simplest of things because that will give you joy and joy is the greatest defence against feeling low. Stay safe, speak up and do not hide away.
So you all know about my Dad AKA Grumpy, well he continues to go through the journey that is Alzheimer’s and the progress within this cruel and unforgiving disease (yes a disease not a normal part of ageing). So as a family we are now realising the importance of making memories and today was one of the days that my niece managed to make one and video the evidence for us. She captured her daughter and us all a memory that previously his grandchildren have and now great grandchildren may still have time to make. So it was great to see a video of Dad with his great granddaughter stood on his wheelchair has he drives it into the house. He actually looked like he used to be and do you know what it made me think we need to grab those memories and just store them to share with those that come after us or are to young to remember. So log it and keep it, enjoy looking back, value who your person is and don’t just see the condition. Remember they are who they were just a little buried under all the chaos that is Alzheimer’s. Its a short blog today but honestly it is so important to remember and save those moments and love them. Just take a moment and sit back and remember the person in front of you. SEE THEM!
Well what has January done for us lately? Well, business was good and looks like its taking us into February positively.
However, Grumpy saga’s still continue (reminder grumpy is my father) he has had 3 admissions to the hospital and another 3 discharge letters that are unhelpful, not clear and sadly the last one not factual. How is it someone goes into hospital for one thing and comes out with something else and really not seeming any better well in fact potentially worse? With the discharge letter leaving out vital information for the GP.
This time for my mother the experiene was distressing with a Doctor shouting at her and a Nurse (head nurse I believe) being rude, snappy and unhelful to my mother unless oddly if others were there. With the lack of understanding within Dementia and the need for my mother to be there to help so as my father does not get distressed. I don’t understand this and I clearly did not see any understanding of his needs both physically and emotionally. What fustrates me is we have completed a THIS IS ME write up to tell them about how he is, his history, his needs, his capabilities but I am not even sure they bothered reading it.
Of course on looking at the CQC report I am not surprised the hospital is inadequate and the fact that it took me to tell them to place a fluid chart in place before they did.
So why am I writing this and not naming and shaming well thats because my mother would not like that as she is very much appreciative of the NHS and of the hard work some do but also there is no point as it seems not even CQC have responded to a complaint I put in. I am therefore writing it for me. I am writing to just show that we need to try to speak up get a voice and say no to poor practice, poor empathy from people who should know better. I am writing because I want to know when Grumpy has to go back in that I know he is having the best care they can possibly give and that they consider my mother and emotional wellbeing.
What this hospital lack or at least now 2 of the 3 wards my father was on are the 6c’s which are:
These a key principles not hard, nothing you need to be taught really, things that we should expect and things I remind people of when I do in house training.
So where are we now with grumpy, well he is home. mother is managing and is doing as always and amazing job. Best put that she would do better if the council came and got a bed that has been stood in her garden for nearly 2 months.
Mother his helped by some (what should I call?) gentle jibes through the facebook group Grumpy’s groupies. It have got worse by the way with the content to bad that I can not screenshot much of it. This group continues to do its job of light relief and offloading. Its important to know when you need to be serious and when you can just show how nuts you are as that is what this group is about. ‘Its not all about Grumpy’. It has to be about our mum, our grandma it has to be to ensure she is kept up beat in times of adversity.
So bravely I share some of the content.
As you can see its so wrong but for my mother it is so right its her place and she gains so much as do we. Try it. Caring is hard butcan be made easier with the right support and right dose of nuttiness.
Hey feel free to share you groups. Smiling and laughing is important. Take care of each other, speak up and be the persons voice and know your rights.
I am sure there are going to be a lot of these predictable new years posts but it has to be done and it has to be done well.
So here goes:
2016 what did you give to me.
January you gave me a graduate as my gorgeous daughter graduated from Derby University. A very proud moment.
February was a quiet month but still but I got to sea seals on the beach in Norfolk with my wonderful friend ‘Kinky’ or Kate if you need her real name.
March was a busy time just getting out and about and meeting up with friends.The mask picture was a game of pin the cucumber on the hunk (you had to be there).
April was all about the gardening and family time. The big garden was commenced and a pop to Lowerstoft to see mum and dad.
May the gardening became a massive build or should I say demolition, poor Alan ended up on his back with me giggling. Love continued.
June was all about the queens birthday and a mission to try and get the community together which was not a great success but we had great time with the usual bunch of people.
July was about big weekend, time alone with Cameron in Norfolk, checking out the botanic gardens to see where we will have our wedding photos and then barbecue in the new look garden.
August was a trip to Scotland with some great friends who fell in love with the scenery. We had an amazing week,lucky with the weather and lovely place to stay. It was also the month when cucumbers and tomatoes grew beautifully.
September was a first for me going to my very first festival and then meeting Paddy of Emerdale. The parents visiting which was lovely and I got my heron photo. It was a good month. There was much sadness in September also which a number of my friends had to deal with and they dealt with their sadness with such dignity and strength.
October was a charity event time for breast cancer when planning it I was just thinking back at Valerie the real founder of the title to my blog but then how would I have known it would then be news that would be hard for all with my niece being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a great night and every penny will count. I then had a visit to bakewell with my lovely friend and her children.
November was a month where things were a little quieter but with a great night thrown in at Gin of the Rocks. Night at the museum and more gardening for Alan.
Now we come to December where we had the best time and the most fun just spending this month with family and friends. So no we have got to 31/12/16 a little poorly so no going out but what I do have is 2017 to look forward to and I can’t wait.
Good bye 2016 and welcome with bells on 2017. We have a wedding, more babies due and people to fight hard to ensure they get well. So positive vibes required and celebrations to be focused on.
Happiness, Health and Love I wish all.
PART 1 (not sure there is a part 2)
It came into my head tonight that there must be a tail or two that care workers could tell us that will shed light on the fun it can be to be a carer. Yes it’s a serious job (I am well aware), but if like me, there has been some funny/amusing/amazing/extraordinary experiences that within care then maybe we should share. It’s just a thought. Of course no identifiable information that would break ‘data protection’ or ‘confidentiality’ but stories that may bring a wry smile to your face or did bring a rye smile maybe even a loud laugh.
My first day as a support worker (18 just left home) gave me a shock, having a lady ask me outright if I had a Fanny and the proceeded to say I have ‘see’. Oh and yes she showed me. How I managed to be brave enough to stay I do not know but I did. It still brings a wry smile to me face when I think of her that first moment.
Not long after this I was told I would need to practice ducking and I just laughed at that comment not understanding the real implications until, a glass and a table came across the room then I realised ducking was a skill I mastered very quickly. I found myself drawn to the services users who everyone seemed to want to avoid as they were deemed as ‘challenging’ and they were but finding out about the person and learning the triggers and reasons behind the frustration helped enormously. So I would watch and observe and move very quickly when another support worker went in feet first with no thought for the persons feelings. They soon learnt to duck. Sadly 28 years ago there was not much training or clear understanding. However, I now enjoy being able to share my knowledge in supporting positive behaviours.
If you could see care in colour then below is what it would be, unique, bright and sometimes explosive. It’s all the colours of the rainbow and more.
If you heard it in a sound then it would be all the chords, notes you can think of going of at once.
So what I ask is that you focus on these stories of joy, amusement, uniqueness and inclusion and share them with respect. Remember on the harder days it’s going to be a better day soon. Think of the colours, think of the sounds and then remember your going home you are just there for a moment in some of the people’s lives so make that moment mean something. Make that time be colourful, make the smile as bright as you can and focus on what matters.