Posted by Tim Barber at 05/09/2012 15:00:20
My last post explained what I had experienced in a notional stage 3 of “things starting to get noticeably worse”, but in this post I hope to explain stage 4, where Mum started to put herself in danger living at home.
Over the previous months, the family – me, my brother and my aunties, had questioned how much longer Mum would be able to stay at home. She’d told us that she wanted to stay in her own house for as long as possible, and we had tried to help her to do this by increasing the level of external support she had from social services and private nurses. But the strain was starting to tell, and as the incidents started to become more frequent and the level of danger increased, it did act as a catalyst to prompt action. On top of this, each member of the family had different views as to when we should act and what constituted a real danger, as opposed to something which was an acceptable risk.
This did lead to arguments between my aunts, my brother and I as to who wanted to do right by Mum’s wishes, whilst some of her sisters felt life would be easier if she had been put in a care home earlier. With hindsight, we all had Mum’s best interests at heart.
Anyway, this stage of “putting herself in danger” can best be summed up by explaining some of the things that happened.
Mum started getting into the habit of filling up the electric kettle with water and then trying to heat it up by putting it on the electric hob. We had a collection of melted plastic kettles we kept in the garage, and in the end we had to get the cooker turned off as we were worried about the risk of a fire.
The calls to and from my aunties and social services were becoming more frequent. There was never anything I could do apart from report another incident which I was doing almost on a daily basis. I’d also receive odd calls from mum at strange times, once at 3am in the morning saying "it’s raining in the kitchen". I definitely had a feeling of helplessness being 120 miles away in Leeds.
In this particular incident, I worked out she had left the bath running and it was flooding the house. I managed to get her to turn the taps off and had to get my aunts up in the middle of the night to help me sort the situation.
Mum locked herself out of the house on many occasions as a result of having Alzheimer’s. She had tried to compensate for this by leaving the front door wide open whenever she went out…whilst this wasn’t a direct risk to her, it did worry us from a security point of view.
Even with the help of carers, there were obvious signs in the house that Mum just couldn’t cope with Alzheimer’s anymore. We gradually all came to the same conclusion that we were soon going to have to make that “difficult decision”. I’ll cover the main issues we had in my next blog stage 5 – “making the difficult decision.”