Monday, 13 April 2015

Knowledge and knowing #atozchallenge Care for the Carers

Two days after her 73rd birthday my Mum took her final breath. She had Alzheimers and Motor neurone disease. For her final 3 months I was her main carer. A privilege I am grateful for and will cherish forever. This years #atozchallenge theme will focus on being a carer / care-giver.

Remember to care for the carers.  

When I did my first clinical placement in a nursing home I knew from the start that I never wanted Mum to spend time in one. I also made a habit of treating patients as if they were my parents.

Knowing my parents' and their routines made my job of establishing a good working routine easier at times and impossible at others. Mum would have been better off for example with several small servings of food throughout the day, but I couldn't shake their lifetime routine of '3 square meals a day.' 

Knowledge from working in surgical wards, doctors clinics, dementia wards and palliative care made everyday tasks easier, especially as she was such a dignified lady. The palliative care team were constantly telling Mum to just do what Ida tells you to do, because 'she knows what to do.'  

There's also that type of knowing that makes no sense at all.  I knew Mum would die at home and I knew she would wait until I wasn't in the house with her. It was what she wanted. I don't know how I knew. It was more than a feeling. I just knew.

I also knew she would die after her birthday. The day after her birthday we spent the morning together but that night I went to stay at a friends house for a well needed rest. I wasn't getting more than 2-3 straight hours of sleep and often less than 5 hours a day. 

I knew she was close to death, and began getting  in the habit of treating every conversation we had as if it was our last. I told her leaving her was hard but better for everybody. We told each other we loved each other, we kissed and she whispered, 'Thank you. Everything will be ok... '

My last thought before falling asleep that night was 'I wonder if she'll be strong enough to last another week until my next 'night off' 

I was so sure she would wait till I was out of the house. At the time it didn't occur to me that 'tonight was the night.'  At 3am I received a text message saying she was doing fine. At 5.30am a phone call saying 'it's time to come home, she's gone, it's happened, we've lost her' - or something like that.  I took my time, no need to rush. 

On the morning of her funeral I walked into one of her favourite thrift stores as I was waiting for my appointment at her favourite hair salon. Over the speakers a song started playing and stopped me in my tracks. The song is about a woman named Ita Buttrose, an iconic and well respected woman in Australian media (the name sounds so much like Ida we've always replaced Ita with Ida) 

'I believe, I believe what Ida tells me to.'  From that moment I knew Mum was close by and still had her sense of humour.  

Cold Chisel - Ita.

One thing I didn't know was that the last leg of my flight from Melbourne to Denmark would be upgraded to business class... but I get the feeling I know why.  


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  1. It's such a tragic story.

    1. We are never to old to lose our Mum's Jo, so yes it is tragic, but in many other ways she was content and happy to be surrounded by family, and stay at home.

  2. Hi Ida - so well done you were able to be with your mother and keep her at home ... my mother needed too much nursing and was bedridden, so the choice couldn't be made - and she accepted it .. she was amazing: we were lucky. And as you say you were aware of the likely way of passing .. and I'm sure she's still with you ... welcome back to Europe and Denmark .. cheers Hilary

    1. The last few days were the most difficult in so much as she was getting to weak and could hardly weight bare anymore, it was definitely much harder, any worse and it would have been a 'two man' job to lift and move her... and she may well have been better off in a nursing home. Thanks Hilary, it's good to be home.

  3. I didn't really think about how my idea and decision to not see Mum in a nursing home might translate to people who have family members use them. I think they they are the best place for some people. I often said Mum would have enjoyed the social side of it, but it just wasn't the best place for her given the diseases she ended up dying of, and that, through a very fortunate set of circumstances, I was able to be there for her.


Feedback and your own stories are welcome.