Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dementia and me....

My mother.... Christmas 2005... at our house, Christmas, well groomed, loving being with her family....

My mother... Christmas 2013... a shell of her former self. If she had any idea I'd be showing this photo she'd be mortified....

Is it wrong that I wish my mother dead?

Is it wrong that I see her, at best, every six months?

Is it wrong that she's effectively dead to me already?

My mother has been suffering with Alzheimers for many years now. She's two and a half years in a home, my dad (almost) finally free of the guilt putting her there caused, finally getting some distance from her.

It's the long goodbye.

My mom and I were never that close, the relationship fracturing in my teens, never really to recover. Looking back I start to question how much of the intractability, the fury, the obsessive nature that I remember so well when I remember who she was, was actually merely early signs of the dementia to come. In some ways I'm grateful that our relationship became toxic, as it saves me from the pain and guilt of seeing her this way. In other ways, it makes me sad and guilty that I'm not deeply affected by seeing my mom laid low by this horrible disease.

She'd seen her own mother go through it. I remember Grandma Hancox suffering from dementia, seeing mom go to her house, get upset, chastise grandma for doing all the stupid, illogical things dementia sufferers do, all the lost clothes, al the boiling kettles dry stuff. And I remember how upset she was by experiencing it.

She always said, only half joking, that if ever she started showing those same signs, we should put a pillow over her face and end it all then. Thing is, I knew she meant it.

God knows, when I say the same to Louise and Molly, I know I bloody well mean it.

Suffice it to say, Louise and Molly already know my wishes.

I do hope by that time wiser heads have prevailed and we have a reasonable assisted suicide route in this country. My wishes are simple, as soon as I start showing signs, Louise is instructed to thrust fags, cigars and G&T into my hand (fuck it, I'll hopefully have been quit 30/40 years by that stage, but lets make those final years pleasurable eh?) and let me get on with it.

The key moment is when I don't function properly, stop enjoying reading, find my cognitive abilities restricted. Louise will be the best judge of that. And then it's simply a case of booking me in to the clinic, feeding me gin, and fags, and cigars until the end, one last night to see the stars and then goodnight. Terry Pratchett may want to see a final sunrise, I've always been a nightowl, I'll be happy seeing the stars when I go out.

If they can cope with it I'll have Louise and Molly with me at the time, both of them reading from Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.

If they can't cope with it (and no guilt if they can't) a nurse will do the job instead.

An overdose of whatever is legally (I hope) mandated will see me to sleep. God knows that is so much better than the hell I see my mother go through whenever I see her.

I wish my mother dead. I don't think that makes me a bad person.

What makes me a bad person is that I don't walk into her care home tomorrow and do the bloody deed myself.


  1. Richard,
    I'm so sorry your family's having to go through this. I don't think you should feel bad for wanting _anyone's_ pain to be over, let alone your Mum. I certainly think you're wise to have sorted out your end-of-life wishes, which is something we all should do.
    I wish I had something better to say than I wish you and your family strength for all that's ahead.

  2. Hi Richard. Thanks for a very honest and brave entry. I'm very sorry to learn that you are going through such a difficult time. I have no experience of the disease and so no insight to offer but you seem to have a family that love you very much which must be a great consolation right now. Thinking about you all.