We are on a journey, my mum and I.
This is me, Theona, with my beautiful mum. I used to take mum out all the time for a meal, a coffee, shopping, weekend trips, to get our hair and nails done, or to visit friends. This photo was the last time I took her out to her best friend's place.
She has been living in a nice nursing home now for 7 years and 6 months. I do not have the resources to look after her, especially now that she has end stage dementia.
I live 445 kilometres away and the distance makes it more difficult to spend time with her.
I can't pop in on my way home to see how she's going, so I ring the nurses instead.
I visit every couple of weeks for a few days and spend precious quality time - feeding her, taking her for walks in her tub chair, going outside to feel the breeze and sunshine, talking to her and just keeping company, reassuring her that she is not alone - and this takes a lot of pressure off the nursing staff providing them with valuable time to help other residents. Mum loves sweet treats between meals and I ensure there are choccies in her room and hope that someone will be kind enough to give her one when I'm not around.
Most importantly, I am there to support her through this devastating and cruel disease that has taken her life away piece by piece. It has reduced a once vibrant and busy woman to one who is so vulnerable and in need of others for everything the rest of us take for granted on a daily basis.
She is scared, confused and frightened. She has lost her speech and I listen carefully to the sounds she makes - to hear any precious words that lie within - she has so much to say and I want to understand and communicate to give her the respect and dignity that I am listening and reassurance that I care. It's hard. It is cruel, and it is so unfair.
Smiles come and go - mornings are the best time before sundowners sets in later in the day. When she smiles her whole face lights up and she is so beautiful. I am smiling now as I think of her smiling as I write this. Precious moments that are good for her and everyone around her. Joy and laughter really are the best medicine, even if only for a fleeting moment.
When mum is sleeping, in my capacity as a volunteer, I catch up with my other resident friends. They all enjoy a chat and love talking about their lives and families. A five minute chat can brighten up someone's day. With the dementia residents, it matters not that they don't remember who you are, or what you have talked about, or that you may repeat it all over again. What matters is that you have spent some quality time with them. You have brought them happiness and taken away their loneliness, even if only for a short brief moment.
Helping the elderly is not always easy and there are so many issues that intertwine and influence what we can do. You must respect the nursing home's regime and work with them. You must allow for the health of the individual and meet them on their terms. You must be strong and prepare yourself for when they die.
What qualifies me to do this? Since mum's diagnosis in 2005 I have been on this dementia journey with her. I promised her that I will use everything I have learned to help others. "Companions" was born and is now growing.
I am a qualified workplace and business coach, trainer, facilitator and photographer. I am combining all of my skills to help the elderly and most importantly, to help fund a cure for dementia.
Please visit our online shop Dementia Demolition Squad where fun and inspiring T-Shirts are available. They are different, funky and make awesome gifts for people of all ages.
Let's rid the world of dementia. The life you save could be your own.