Thursday, 27 February 2014

When the child becomes the parent - why I'm taking an enforced break from ELT!

I never wanted children and, luckily, when I met the man who was to become my husband, he felt the same way.  In the years that we've been together, we've enjoyed our child-free lives.  Indeed, had we had children, we would not have been able to have the lifestyle, and its associated adventures, that we've had.  It's not that we don't like children.  We have a number of nieces and nephews (and now a couple of great-nieces!) who we love dearly.  We love spending time with them, teaching them things, enjoying their company, laughing and having fun, and, most of all, we love ... handing them back to their parents!  So, it has come as a bit of a shock, to say the least, to find myself becoming a parent in my very late forties - and, in the worst case scenario, a parent to my own Mum!

Not that Mum would see it that way.  You see, she has Alzheimer's disease.  One of the symptoms in many sufferers is that they don't recognise that there's anything wrong.  In Mum's mind, she's fine.  She acknowledges that she forgets things from time to time, but that's about it.  In reality, though, despite being physically very fit, her dementia means that she's no longer able to take care of herself in her own home.  We suspected that this was the case, but our planned trip back at Christmas time, confirmed it.  We felt we had no choice but to return to the UK to care for her.

So, since the beginning of January, we've been living back in the UK for the first time in ten years - and it's been very hard!!  I was very na├»ve.  Following discussions with Mum's care manager before coming back, I accepted what she said about me being the daughter, not the carer.  I was happy to take on the role of chauffeur, cook, cleaner, and companion, convincing myself it would be nice to spend time with Mum whilst she still has capacity.  I was sure I would be able to continue my studies and my CPD, whilst keeping my hand in with some online teaching.  The reality, though, is so different.  Mum's disease is such that caring for her is 24/7.  I really don't have any time to do anything for myself.  I've managed to attend two webinars in the past two months and, on each occasion, had to try to follow proceedings whilst Mum was constantly talking to me and asking me the same questions over and over again.  Finding time to write has been impossible up to now.

This, then, is the reason why I've been absent from social media and teaching forums for a while.  I've missed being part of my virtual world and I've really missed being at work!!  I'm not taking to the caring role very easily - I'm not good at it.  I need to find coping strategies and, more than anything, I need to find joy in my life again!

With these things in mind, I'm forcing myself to set aside some 'me-time', as well as joining groups and seeking out information on how to live with dementia.  I need to know how best to help Mum.  It's such a terrible disease.  I had no idea just how awful it was until it affected me personally.  It's a very steep learning curve, but I'm beginning to feel that my experiences might help others.  So, after much soul-searching, I've decided to write about it.  I'm starting a new blog - When the child becomes the parent - to record some thoughts about what's happening. 

I intend to maintain this blog, too.  As I get better at this caring malarkey, I hope to be able to attend some webinars which I will write up here - and I also have lots of notes from past events which I could tidy up and publish.  I also hope it's not too long before we're able to hit the road again and resume our travels!  In the meantime, it's my fervent wish that I can maintain contact with all of my wonderful PLN!!