Recently, I was contacted by a student from London. Tom had read my blog and was making a short documentary on the care system along with two of his fellow students from City University in London. Would I take part? Of course I would. I’ve learned that any opportunity to raise awareness of dementia should be taken and besides, as a journalism and media lecturer myself, it’s always interesting to spy on what other institutions are up to.
And so, yesterday, my visit to Mum took on extra significance.
“We’re going to be filmed Mum. Is that alright with you?”
I’d cleared it with the home and with my sister and, on the understanding that only Mum and I would appear on camera, it was agreed. Mum laughed heartily at the news. Quite how much she took in, I don’t know but when the time came, boy did she play to the camera!
The students themselves were a credit to their university. They arrived with flowers for Mum and, so refreshingly, they talked to her, not about her to me as if she wasn’t there. Mum featured in the main interview, often agreeing with what I was saying. Again, how aware she was of what was happening, I can’t say but it was very important to me that she was as involved as much as felt comfortable. Occasionally, the flow of the interview was interrupted as Mum looked straight at the camera and started to laugh but talking to and about Mum is always a pleasure and with such interested and empathetic visitors, even more so.
As we talked, I was again able to reflect on how rich my relationship with Mum still is, despite dementia’s constant shadow. I’ve been promised a copy of the unedited footage – the shots of Mum and I singing might be not widely shared – because it’s very important to preserve memories of Mum’s life today. Her life didn’t end when she moved to the care home four years ago. Time spent together might not have the variety it once had, but it’s still precious.
Finally, a word for the staff at the care home. They couldn’t have done more to make the students feel welcome, including give us lunch! Tom was struck by the lovely atmosphere of the place. It feels like a home, he said, and it does.
And so, when I answered the final question of the day – about how I reflected on the six years since Mum’s diagnosis, I could answer truthfully:
Would I turn the clock back and have Mum as she was, of course I would. But has my life been enriched by Mum as she is today, by getting to know some truly inspirational individuals and by encountering the kindness of people, like the staff and the students yesterday, yes, most emphatically, it has.
Oh, and the lunch was delicious as well.