Older people wish to stay in their own homes when it comes to old age and frailty. They often ‘get by’ with support from family – and maybe cleaners and gardeners. Then something bad happens – such as a fall. It triggers a chain of events that disrupts even the most cohesive family’s lives. Getting the right care and support for everyone is essential – and this is Mary’s story about life after a fall at home and a subsequent diagnosis of dementia.

“Getting by” in later life.

Mary was in her early 80s when her youngest daughter, Megan, noticed things were amiss with her mum. Mary lived in a smart little cottage in the middle of a stretch of countryside outside Northwich. She’d lived there since she and her husband Will bought it in the 1960s. They were happy and independent, with five children of their own. Will enjoyed working as a sought-after mechanic in the local village, and Mary was a primary schoolteacher. Life was pretty good.

They brought their children up in the village until they mostly dispersed across the UK and the world in their 20s and 30s. Out of three boys and two girls, Megan was the one who moved back to Chester when she was in her mid-30s because Dad was unwell. Will made a good recovery, and thirty years later, Megan had her own grown-up family and was in her early 60s.

The passage of time.

Sadly, Will passed away when he was 80, and Mary was in her late-70s. It was a sorrowful and challenging time for her and the whole family, but with lots of support and friendships spanning nearly three decades, Mary felt safe knowing she was still living in the same house they had bought all those years ago. The house and everything in it kept Will’s memory alive.

Megan visited as often as possible, even though she was half an hours’ drive away. Her siblings called regularly as possible – when there was a family birthday or occasion – and friends did pop round, but Mary was often on her own, especially during the working week.

When Megan was staying over on one of their monthly ‘stay with mum’ weekends, she noticed things were in odd places in the house. She also noticed Mary occasionally repeating herself and forgetting the names of Megan’s brothers and sisters. Megan would catch herself studying mum in case there was something else she’d not noticed before.

When the lines start to blur.

We all have moments in our lives where we can’t remember what we’re supposed to be doing or have trouble thinking of the right word, but spending just over a weekend with mum, this was much more noticeable and alarming. Mary was relatively spritely given her age and the odd health scare over the years since Will passed away. But things had changed, and it was more apparent than Megan had realised.

Megan decided not to worry too much but resolved to be more present for mum. She chose to stay over the weekend more often as well as go and see her during weekdays. She also called on the support of one of her younger brothers, Jacob, who was closest in distance even though he lived north of Manchester with his family.

Between them, Megan and Jacob began to sort out their mum’s affairs – like Mary’s Powers of Attorney – and they made sure a cleaner was in once a week to keep mum’s house as it should be and a gardener to help keep the garden in control. Megan batch cooked for Mary, and they even managed to get some vegetables growing despite the small back garden!

This routine continued for a while, and the schedule was tight. Although Megan’s two kids were grown up, her daughter Ellie still lived at home, working locally. Megan’s husband, Jeff, was still working, and life was busier than ever between them. It was a stretch, but no one could think of an alternative solution except to keep it within the bounds of family as best they could.

The “Event”.

Things changed overnight when Megan got a call out of the blue at work. Jess, the cleaner, had found Mum on the floor, having tripped over the back doorstep. She always wore her slippers inside the house, and they were covered in dirt.  With close inspection, it seemed Mary had been out in the garden trying to pick flowers and vegetables. Returning to the house, she didn’t notice the extra step and flew off her feet.

Fortunately, she hadn’t been down for long, albeit all morning, but she had a badly sprained wrist and a nasty bump on the left-hand side of her head, and she was upset and confused. It was apparent Mary was having some memory problems, and when she couldn’t remember when she was in the garden or why, she was frightened. Megan panicked and realised she’d have to take much more care of mum. With the help of her brother, she set about getting her to the doctor for tests and to see what else they could do.

It meant Jacob had to take time out and drive to Northwich be with his mum and sister. What was supposed to be a week soon turned out to be a few weeks with weekend home stops in between. The amount of driving back and forth to the hospital and doctors for various appointments took its toll on both Megan and Jacob but more on Mary, who was confused through multiple appointments.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

It took months for Mary’s wrist to heal properly and her head to settle after receiving a deep cut. Mary and Jacob took turns to stay at mum’s house while the other stayed at a local flat, doubling as a holiday rental. Years ago, despite the house having five kids and two adults, it was just not big enough to house three adults, including a mum who needed lots of support and privacy. It was exhausting and expensive. The only thing keeping them on their guard was knowing mum was safe and well, at home and comfortable. But they felt out of their depth.

After extensive tests at the hospital in consultation with Mary’s GP and the memory clinic, it was agreed that Mary had Alzheimer’s. Although it was pretty remarkable how well she had coped in recent years, Megan and Jacob’s realisation that mum’s increasing forgetfulness, the house being in more of a state than usual (despite having a weekly cleaner), and other tell-tale signs were down to her diagnosis was an emotional wake-up call.

The search for a better solution – getting the right care – for mum was their new challenge.

Getting the right care for Mum.

Megan sat down with her brother one Friday morning, and they set about looking at whether a local care home might be the best option. It didn’t feel at all right, though. Mary had been in that little three-bed house since she and Will were in their 20s & 30s and had brought up all their children. Although Mary had a lot of challenges with her diagnosis, Megan also noticed that when she was at home, she was happy. She was calmer than anywhere else, so it made sense to see if she could stay there with extra help.

Mary loved sitting in her small conservatory listening to classical music on the radio every afternoon or watching her favourite TV programmes in the early evenings. She still instinctively knew where everything was and was happy to drink a lot of tea as long as she had her daily newspaper and a tin of biscuits. Gingernuts were a firm favourite. And she still liked a tipple of sweet sherry in the evenings!

She also still chatted a lot to Megan and Jacob about her teaching days. She remembered all the children she had taught and dad’s work friends back in the day. Mary was happiest when she was at home. She ate well when they were both there and was no problem until she was out of her home or amongst people she didn’t know. These would be very poignant times in all their lives, even if they didn’t know it yet.

The Friday morning of searching, it didn’t take long for Promedica24 live-in care to pop up in their search. There was a lot of information about live-in care – short and long-term – and although Megan and Jacob had never really heard of the concept of live-in care, it sounded ideal. They presumed it was only for the very privileged (very expensive) or for people who were extremely unwell or disabled, so it hadn’t occurred to them that this could be the answer they were looking for. They booked an appointment to speak to the Care Consultant, John, as soon as possible.

Care is found – and family life restored.

After extensive discussions with Mary, siblings and medical practitioners – and after slowly introducing Mary to the fact that having live-in care would be a fantastic practical and financial solution for all their needs – they set the ball in motion. After a few weeks of having one of the live-in carers in the third bedroom, a new routine was set.

By having Promedica24 at her side, Mary settled in with her carer. Her routine was upheld, and although she still had appointments to make, she did this with her carer and sometimes with Megan there, too, especially initially, to reassure Mary all was well and that she felt safe. Mary was a gentle soul and had always been, so it was great to know that she was happy as long as she had the biscuit tin close and her music on.

Megan could go back home full time, except for her visits and stayovers for comfort, and Jacob could return to his home and family in Greater Manchester. It had been a few years before Megan and Jacob realised Mary was in mental decline but now, in her 80’s, she had the care she needed to stay happy and well in a home she’d known and loved most of her life.

If this sounds like a familiar story and you’d like to chat to someone about how you or someone you love could benefit from getting the right care, we invite you to get in touch to have an informal chat.