This Mother’s Day – just like every other day of the year – I’ll be thinking of my lovely mum, Glenys, who has lived with dementia for over twenty years. She’s in residential care now in my home town, and I’ll visit her on the day, as I do most weekends and public holidays. For many years, until 2011, I was her sole carer in our family home and by distance during the week (my own flat being 100 miles away in London).
Some time ago, I had a review with the Office of Public Guardian Visitor, who supervises Court of Protection Deputies like me, who manage the financial affairs of a person lacking capacity. As we went through the bank accounts, he asked me why I visited my mother so often (it’s a two-hundred-mile round trip). I was taken aback. Surely it’s obvious? She’s my mum. She’s over ninety, with advanced dementia; I’m her only family. Yes, but what is the purpose of these visits, he persisted?
I have to see how she is, I said; to make sure she’s all right, that she has everything she needs. You could do that by phone, he said. Some deputies visit only once a year. I was perplexed at this approach. She’s forgetting me, I said; I come as often as I can to keep up the connection…
Is that for her though, he asked; or is it really for you?
Afterwards, I realised that he wasn’t criticising me, merely pointing out the distinction between my legal obligations as deputy and the personal actions of a daughter. But it gave me pause for thought.
Each week, I drive down past the country pub where we used to go for Sunday lunch; the garden centre where we spent many a happy afternoon, choosing bedding plants and hanging baskets; the park we used to pass every day on the way to school, where families walk their dogs. It’s as if I’m driving past our old life and it won’t let me in.
Intimacy has gone; our shared history is erased.
My mother is not dead, but I mourn her every day. I mourn myself too, and that long-gone life we shared. But I will never abandon her. I will never give up. I will always continue to visit. Why?
Because I love her; and I know that she loved me. I do this as an act of remembrance.
If you are caring for someone who has moved into residential care or is facing that transition, Dementia Carers Count offers a special ‘Home to Home’ course tailored to this stage of the journey and end of life issues, among its range of core support courses for friends and family carers of people living with dementia. Contact us for details.
Ming’s play, The Things We Never Said, is not currently on BBCiPlayer, but can be downloaded to read from the BBCWritersroom Radio Drama Archive. You can also hear an extract from the radio production and discussion on BBC Radio 4’s Fortunately podcast with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover (@ 10’ 33”).