Archive for the ‘dementia’ Category

As you may have gathered from some of my blog posts this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationships with those in my family who sadly are no longer here, particularly my Mum. I’ve been listening to a lot of music this week too and came across the following song by Michael W Smith, which really summed up the day I said my final farewell to my Mum just a few months ago.

Welcome Home by Michael W Smith

I can’t believe that I’m here
Having to say goodbye.
And I can barely see you through
These tears I cry.
I close my eyes.

[Chorus]
I can hear the sound
As angels gather ’round
Saying this is where you belong
Welcome Home!

There are the days that my heart aches
wishing you were here.
But I know where you are
The hurt and the pain disappear.
There’s no more tears.

[Chorus]

Welcome Home!

[Chorus]

What a lovely sound
Angels all around
Saying this is where you belong
Welcome Home!
Welcome Home!
Welcome Home!

 

 

In so many ways I wish this wasn’t the end of 2015, as once again I find myself looking back over the last year with great sadness.

Mum 70thWhile 2014 had not been great as Mum was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, she had coped well with the chemotherapy so I had certainly started 2015 full of hope that 2015 would bring good news for Mum. Sadly my hopes were dashed early on, as we got the news in January that while Mum’s treatment had helped to a certain extent, the lymphoma had continued to progress so were told they no longer hoped to cure Mum, but still hoped to get her illness under control for as long as possible.

Despite a course of radiotherapy and then starting a course of oral chemotherapy, it was clear in July, Mum’s illness was progressing, and so Mum was admitted to hospital for further tests/treatment. after further scans/test we were summoned to meet with the doctors and Mum, and were told there no further treatment they could offer Mum as her illness was continuing to progress quite aggressively. After a few days of discussion with Mum and the palliative care nurse, Mum agreed to go to the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, initially just for a couple of weeks so we could all be sure she was going to be able to be safe if she went home. Sadly though, Mum never got home, as on the 6th on September she passed away peacefully in the hospice.

TiggerMum wasn’t the only member of my family to pass away this year, as in April we also had to get our cat of almost 20 years, Tigger, put down. We got Tigger as a wedding present on our 1st wedding anniversary, so he would have been 20 years old this July. There was a huge emptiness in our home after Tigger died as other than the first year of our marriage, he was part of our married life, so it was a big change for us not having Tigger around the house anymore.

That wasn’t the end of things either as another member of my family passed away from dementia/Alzheimer’s – my Aunt Vida, passed away in August less than 3 weeks before my Mum died.

I’m not quite sure how I’ve got through these last few months, particularly as this included clearing out my Mum’s house, which had not only my Mum’s belonging, but also many of my Dad and my Aunt Mae’s things too (they both died in 2013) – This was one of the hardest and most upsetting things I’ve ever had to do. I feel that in these last few weeks, that Mum’s death has really hit me hard, as prior to that I was so busy clearing her house and getting organised for hubby and I moving to my Mum and Dad’s house, I don’t think I really had much quiet or alone time to stop and think about all that’s happened this year. One thing I do know though is that my world fell apart when Mum passed away. Other than my hubby, Mum was the last of my immediate family who remained, so now Mum’s gone I feel so very alone – Mum knew how I was going to feel when she passed away as I remember her saying to me just a few weeks before she died, that she wasn’t ready to go yet as she wanted to be here for me. I really wish Mum was still here for me, but sadly her time here on earth was up, however I am reassured in the knowledge that Mum will now be with her Lord and Saviour, and that we will be reunited one day.

Just as in previous years, it’s not only been the bereavements that have been on my mind this year, as there have also been several other ongoing life issues to cope with this year which have added to the stresses and strains of 2015.

I’m finding life quite tough just now, as I really miss my Mum and continue to miss my Dad too. After my Dad and my Aunt Mae passed away 2 years ago there was one song that stuck in my head for a few months as it reminded me that no matter what I’m facing, and how bad life seems, God is there for me and He will always be there for me, and that song has once been going through my head again – so here is Kutless with Promise of a Lifetime:

So as you can see 2015 has been an awful year for me. I really hope and pray 2016 is a happier year for me and my family!

I hope 2015 has been a far happier year for you than it was for me, however if it wasn’t, I hope you have had the love and support of family and friends to help you through the year.

I pray that as we look ahead to 2016 you may go forward with confidence knowing that whatever situations you have to deal with, God is by your side not just during this Christmas season, but all year-long.

The Promise of a Lifetime by Kutless
 
I have fallen to my knees
As I sing a lullaby of pain
I’m feeling broken in my melody
As I sing to help the tears go away Then I remember the pledge you made to me  I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime Will you help me fall apart
Pick me up, take me in your arms
Find my way back from the storm
And you show me how to grow
Through the change I still remember the pledge you made to me
I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime  I am holding on to the hope I have inside
With you I will stay through every day
Putting my understanding aside I am comforted
To know your always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime.
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
Looking back at me
I know that you can see
My heart is open to the promise of a lifetime 

Aunt MaeOn the 3rd of April 2013 at about 6.300am, one year ago today, we received the phone call we’d been expecting, but dreading, it was the hospital to tell us that my Aunt Mae had died just a few minutes earlier.

Well one year on, and I’m still finding it hard to cope with my Aunt Mae and my Dad not being with us anymore. It still seems unbelievable in many ways that in the space of just a few weeks last year Dad and then Aunt Mae died.

In many ways my grief for them took a back seat for a number of months as I tried to help my Mum cope with the lost of her husband and her sister. Mum is coping a little better these days, although just like me, she has her moments!

Bereavement affects us all at some point in our lives and we get through it in different ways; some seem to cope as if nothing has happened, others struggle to cope; some find it easy to talk about their loss, others prefer the quietness and reassurance of their own memories. However we cope when someone we love passes away, we are grieving and it’s important to give ourselves time to grieve and not expect life just to carry on as normal for as, as our lives will never be the same again after a loved one dies.

So today, I remember my Aunt Mae, Mary Waddell Gilchrist (23/10/1922 – 3/4/2013) who passed away one year ago today,  and my Dad, both of whom I miss so very much, you’re both never far from my mind and I will always love you both.

 

On the 21st of February 2013 just after 7.10am, one year ago today, I received the phone call I’d been dreading for a while – It was the nursing home my Dad was in phoning to Dad at our weddingtell me that Dad had died just a few minutes earlier.

Well one year on, and I’m still finding it hard to cope with Dad not being with us anymore, which in itself is a bit odd, as for a while prior to his death, Dad wasn’t really Dad anymore anyway, because of the vascular dementia which eventually killed him – It looked like Dad, but it was a shell of the man I knew and loved as much of the time he didn’t know us, or even speak to us in his final few months, so in many ways we’ve been mourning Dad’s “death” for a lot longer than one year.

I can’t believe that’s now a year since Dad left us, as so much has happened in this last year to my family. There’s so many situations I find myself in that I just want to go talk to Dad about and then have to stop and remind myself that Dad’s not here anymore…

There’s so much more I wish I could say about Dad today, but even one year on, it’s still too hard for me to do so.

Bereavement affects us all at some point in our lives and we get through it in different ways; some seem to cope as if nothing has happened, others struggle to cope; some find it easy to take about their loss, others prefer the quietness and reassurance of their own memories. However we cope when someone we love passes away, we are grieving and it’s important to give ourselves time to grieve and not expect life just to carry on as normal for as, as our lives will never be the same again after a loved one dies.

So today, and every day, I remember my Dad, Edwin Robert Johnson (25/4/1927 – 21/2/2013) – I miss you so much, you’re never far from my mind and I will always love you.

No matter what we do or where we go, God is there with us. He never forget us, or leaves us.

No Height, No Depth performed by Margaret Becker:

 

Well thank goodness that’s us just about at the end of 2013, because for me, although it seems to have been a very quick year, it’s been a really rotten year!

Dad at our weddingI’m getting a feeling of deja vu here, as I seem to recall saying at the end of 2012 it had been a tough year for me…if I’d know what lay ahead in 2013, 2012 would have seemed like a walk in the park!

So we’re almost at the end of 2012. I don’t know about you, but this year seems to be over nearly as soon as it began! I know some will tell me that’s a sign of getting old, but I refuse to believe that, as I think it’s simply been because there’s been so much going on in my life this year…again.

I should have known when 2013 it was going to be a tough year as right from the start of the year it was apparent that Dad’s dementia was deteriorating, as from just before the close of 2012, Dad would not eat or drink anything, and thus was hospitalised on 4th January for the 2nd time in a few months.

Sadly this time he did not recover, and at the start of February Dad was discharged from hospital to his nursing home on end of life care. I think it was only when the nurses at the nursing home said “end of life care” that Mum finally realised what the hospital had been saying for the last couple of weeks. On the 21st of February, my Dad lost his life to vascular dementia.

Aunt Mae (Aug 2011)In January my Aunt Mae (Mum’s sister) was moved from her care home to the nursing home my Dad was in, as her dementia was causing her to become violent towards the staff at her care home and they could no longer cope with her there.

The week after Dad’s funeral, we got summoned to my Aunt Mae’s care home as they were waiting on an ambulance for her as she had a bad chest infection. It turned out they thought she’s had a mild stroke, but when they went to do the CT scan to confirm this, she had another stroke. Sadly on 3rd April my Aunt Mae passed away, due to a combination of her stroke and her dementia.

I’m not quite sure how I got through those months as being the guardian for both my Dad and Aunt Mae, I had to do all the organisation (with help from Mum and Sandy), clear out both Dad’s and Aunt Mae’s belongings from the nursing home, stay strong form Mum who, as you can imagine, was devastated. To be honest I don’t think it really all hit me until about May and then I really struggled to come to terms with the death of 2 of the people I’ve been closest to.

Unfortunately this was not the end of the bereavements for my family, as in mid November my Dad’s sister died, also from dementia, which knocked my Mum for six again, as we were always quite close with my Auntie Mabel and her family as when I was young, we used to spend just about the whole of our summer holiday’s in Cambridge with her and her family.

Sandy’s side of my family also suffered a couple of bereavements this year, so all in all we’ve had far more than our fair share of family bereavements this year. Add to these bereavements, my hubby’s health issues and my own on-going health issues, and you can see it’s not been a great year for us.

I’m still finding life quite tough just now, as I continue to miss my Dad in particular, but there’s one song that has been stuck in my head for a few months now which keeps reminding me that no matter what I’m facing, and how bad life seems, God is there for me and He will always be there for me – Here’s Kutless with Promise of a Lifetime:

So as you can see 2013 has been a rotten year so I’ll be glad to see the back of it! 2014 can only be a better year can’t it!

I hope your 2013 has been a far happier year than mine has been, however if not, I hope you have had the love and support of family and friends to help you through the year.

I pray that as we look ahead to 2014 you may go forward with confidence knowing that whatever situations you have to deal with, God is by your side not just during this Christmas season, but all year-long.

The Promise of a Lifetime by Kutless
 
I have fallen to my knees
As I sing a lullaby of pain
I’m feeling broken in my melody
As I sing to help the tears go away Then I remember the pledge you made to me 

I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime

Will you help me fall apart
Pick me up, take me in your arms
Find my way back from the storm
And you show me how to grow
Through the change

I still remember the pledge you made to me

I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime  I am holding on to the hope I have inside
With you I will stay through every day
Putting my understanding aside

I am comforted
To know your always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime.
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me and leave behind
The promise of a lifetime

I know you’re always there
To hear my every prayer inside
I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime
Looking back at me
I know that you can see
My heart is open to the promise of a lifetime 

Tonight it is my turn to do the devotions in our band practice, so I thought I’d share with you the devotions I will be sharing with the band tonight:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe we’re now more than half way through November! It’s been one very quick year, however it’s certainly been a year I will never forget after the death of first my Dad in February, Aunt Mae (Mum’s sister) in April and since I wrote these devotions, my Aunt Mabel (Dad’s sister) died on Sunday.

Yes, it’s been a very tough year, but it’s also been a year that has challenged spiritually – My Dad did not believe in God, while my Aunt Mae was a true Christian lady, a lifelong Salvationist. Therefore I found myself thinking about the afterlife, my faith and the promises I’d made to God, and in turn asked myself the following questions:

  • Had I done all I could to share my faith with Dad?
  • Did he find God in his final days when he was no longer able to communicate with us?
  • Am I doing all I could to share my faith with others, especially those I love and care about?
  • Is my own faith what it ought to be?

My Aunt Mae’s faith, even when her dementia meant she no longer recognised us or was violent towards us, still shone through as she still talked about the Army, and asked what was happening at Rutherglen, who was bandmaster, and the strange one, was the carpet in the hall ok?! She talked of people who had long since been promoted to glory, but couldn’t remember what day of the week it was…having attended the Army all her days, it seemed the Army and all it meant to her was the small part of her she never lost when her dementia took over her personality.

There’s one song O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end, has become particularly special to me this year, not just because it was one of my Aunt Mae’s favourites and reminds me of her faith right up to the end, but because it has challenged me to reflect on my own faith.

So whenever we play Guardian of My Soul which features this song, I find it very emotional as it stirs up so many memories for me, as well as reminding me of the promises, I like my Aunt, have made to serve God all my days.

promiseO Jesus I have promised
To serve thee to the end
Be thou forever near me
My Master and my friend
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.
 
O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in Glory,
There shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my friend.

Each of us here tonight have promised to serve God all our lives.

I’ve been challenged this year to reflect on, and renew my promise to God to serve Him all my life.

How about you, is your promise to serve Him to the end, still as strong today as it once was?

It’s funny isn’t it, how quickly things can change – one minute things are going well, then the next you hit an all time low…it’s rotten isn’t it?

Well in the last few days I’ve felt just like that, as this last weekend I was away with Bellshill Salvation Army Band at Guisborough where we lead the praise and worship meetings at the Salvation Army there on Saturday night and then Sunday morning and afternoon. What a fantastic weekend that was with the band playing brilliantly; the spiritual challenges given by both the music and those who lead the various devotional periods both before the meetings and during them.

Life-Mental-HealthBy the end of the weekend though on Sunday night, things were beginning to turn for me as, as I had expected my pain levels were starting to go through the roof with my pain killers not making any difference to my pain at all, plus extreme fatigue was taking over again.

Then today, Monday, it was a struggle to get out of bed as between pain and extreme fatigue it took a great effort. Thankfully I had planned today would be a day of nothingness as I anticipated I would be feeling like this after a long busy couple of days. If only it had continued as a day of nothingness…

First of all, just after lunchtime, my husband got a phone call from one the guys from work that he’s good friends with, to tell us that one of the other guys at work that they are friends with had been found dead in his home this morning. We were both shocked and stunned by this news as it had come completely out of the blue…

Not long after we’d received that first bit of bad news, we received a second bit of bad news…my Aunt Mabel, my Dad’s sister had died yesterday. She, like my Dad had dementia and, just like Dad had, had a fall, and had never really recovered from it.

What a rotten year this has been, that’s now 3 of my close family members, my Dad, then Aunt Mae, and now Aunt Mabel died, plus one of my husband’s cousin’s also died at the start of the year. How quickly the great highs of a fabulous challenging weekend and be put to one side when death strikes.

If you are a praying person, can I make two request of you please: firstly that you pray for the family and friends of my work colleague who has passed away suddenly; and secondly, can you pray for my family as this is our third family bereavement this year, and my Mum in particular is taking this hard.

Thank you.

Aunt Mae (Aug 2011)Today, the 23rd October, is another sad day for us, as today would have been my Aunt Mae’s 91st birthday.

It’s now just over 6 months since my Aunt Mae passed away, but just typing these words have started my tears flowing again. In many ways it seems like just yesterday Aunt Mae passed away, just 6 weeks after my Dad died. However in many other ways it seems like an eternity since both Aunt Mae and Dad were here with us.

I have thought of my Aunt Mae every day since she died.

I have shed many tears every day since Aunt Mae died.

I have missed my Aunt Mae every day since she died.

As Aunt Mae’s dementia worsened, she, just like my Dad, failed to recognised us or acknowledge that she knew us and latterly her personality completely changed, as she went from being a loving caring person to someone who was angry and aggressive…that just wasn’t my Aunt Mae. Having said that, during her final few days in the hospital, she did seem to have a the odd moment of clarity, as at one point when Mum apparently told her I was on my way in to see her she smiled and tried to say my name…

I am in no way saying there was no bond between Aunt Mae and the rest of my family, but I know there was always a special place in her heart for me, after all I was named after her as Mum and Dad gave me her name as my middle name, Mary.

These have been incredibly difficult months for my family, and my Mum in particular – Mum’s struggled to come to terms with the death of first my Dad and then Aunt Mae, but she’s getting there, as am I. I would however ask that today, as we remember my Aunt Mae in particular, on what would have been her birthday, that you continue to pray for us as we continue to grieve the death of two much-loved members of our family, my Aunt Mae and my Dad.

I love you Aunt Mae, and I miss you so much. You’ll always be in my thoughts and firmly in my heart. Dorothy xxx

dementia-handsI was disappointed and saddened a few days ago to hear someone who said they had experience of a family member suffering from dementia, say that dementia was simply about memory loss. Yes, it is about memory loss, but it’s also about so much more than that!

While there are still people who consider dementia just to be about memory loss, I don’t think it’ll ever be considered as a serious life-changing and life-threatening illness – We all forget things sometimes, so to me, talking about dementia as simply memory loss, almost seems to trivialise it as we tend to think of those instances when we ourselves have temporarily forgotten something.

From personal experience dementia is so much more than just forgetting things, it’s about the change in their personality – those who have been mild mannered and caring may become aggressive and angry; it’s about no longer being able to care for and look after yourself; it’s about no longer understanding that you have to eat and drink to live.

For me one of the worst things was seeing the fear in their eyes of my Dad and Aunt Mae as they realised what is happening to them, knowing they could do nothing to stop the illness take over their lives. Forget a few thing doesn’t do that to anyone, dementia does, and it’s heart wrenching.

Here’s just some of the symptoms dementia suffers may experience, not all suffers experience all these symptoms but they will definitively experience some…you can see at a glance it’s more than just about forgetting things!

  • increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
  • memory loss
  • depression
  • changes in personality and mood e.g. A person who was previously withdrawn may become very outgoing, or vice versa; a quite mild mannered person my become loud and aggressive.
  • periods of mental confusion
  • wandering during the night
  • aggression
  • low attention span
  • believing in things that are not true
  • slower movement,
  • shaking and trembling of arms and legs
  • shuffling while walking,
  • problems sleeping
  • visual hallucinations
  • compulsive behaviour,
  • speaking far less than usual, or not speaking at all,
  • having problems finding the right words to express themselves

I hope you never have to cope with anyone in your family or any friends suffer from dementia because it really is a cruel illness – I’ve been there and witnessed it first hand with several very close family members, and therefore have seen first hand how it affects not only the sufferer but their family and friends too…it’s awful.

Please always remember, dementia is  not just about forgetting a few things, it’s about so much more!