Lying in bed this morning, thinking about Mum and the impact the last five years has had on our family, the phrase “It’s alright” kept coming in to my mind. It’s a phrase we often hear and use, and it’s the one I most associate with the early months of Mum’s relationship with dementia, before and after diagnosis. Mum’s response to her developing confusion was normally:
Whether it was where she’d put her keys, what she’d done with her shopping list or as dementia took a slightly stronger grip, when she tried to pay for her supermarket shopping with a membership card from the National Trust.
To me, it clearly wasn’t alright. These things shouldn’t be happening to my lovely, clever, resourceful Mum. But this was Mum’s way of coping. “It’s alright…” was shorthand for “I’m still on control, I still know what I’m doing.” Looking back, those two words were a comfort to Mum. Yes, she had Alzheimer’s but she was living with it, and living well with it.
Sadly the days of hearing the magic phrase are long gone. An old friend of Mum’s visited her last week. They’ve been close since junior school more than 70 years ago and, despite living a distance away and not being a driver, Carole still takes the trouble to visit Mum when she can. A member of the care home staff told me that Carole was in tears as she left last time. I called her, worried that she might be finding the visits too distressing. No, she told me, she wasn’t distressed – just a little sad. And she’s right, it is sad. Sad that Mum barely seems to know who she is. Sad that while so many of her old friends are still leading very active lives, Mum’s world is confined to one building in Kidderminster. Sad that as her granddaughters spread their wings into adulthood, Mum can’t share in their excitement.
But Mum is content. She’s at peace with her surroundings and she seems happy. And, you know what, it’s alright.