Week Twenty-Two

Me and my Mammy

It was great to be back in Nussloch, where I was an Au-pair for two years. I felt very conscious of time passed by. We enjoyed a satisfying balance of sightseeing, walking, eating and relaxing with good friends. It was great to spend time with my special friend ‘Little John’ too.

Now I’m home and mid way unpacking, washing and repacking for camp tomorrow. It’s Josh’s 14th birthday today. My life feels more normal again now.

I know that Isabelle’s crew had all visited Mum on the Tuesday and Monica had been to see her on the Wednesday. Apparently Julia had planned to go on the Friday, but had phoned in advance and was told that Mum had gone to Clumber Park with the relatives of another resident? I must investigate that one a bit further, as I know that Monica had had trouble getting Mum into the car the week before, when she wanted to take her out for a picnic.

That was quite a surreal experience for me – I was on the top of ‘Holy Mountain,’ in Heidelberg and found myself answering my mobile-phone to Monica, who wanted me to reassure Mum that it was OK for her to go out for a picnic with herself and Alf. It was fine then, but apparently, bringing Mum home again was another story completely. It seems that they could not get Mum back into Alf’s van. Monica presented an amusing but tragic image of them chasing Mum around the car park – one which I would have thought would have made them think twice about letting her go off with strangers the next time. Monica, who saw her own mum behaving badly with dementia, saw a side of Mum that shocked even her.


After church on Sunday, I walked to Broad Glade with Conor and Violet, intending to then make Isabelle’s house our walking destination for Mum, for tea and cakes and then a good walk back. She appeared very miserable when we arrived and had been sobbing all day, apparently. She didn’t seem particularly pleased to see us, but was glad to be invited out for a walk.

Walking up the steep hill to Isabelle’s house is challenging for most of us, so Mum did really well, stopping only twice to catch her breath. Walking down the other side felt very dangerous, because she didn’t seem to know how to control her balance and not run into the walls or topple forward. She wouldn’t be able to go home again that way.

Mum wasn’t very animated at Isabelle’s and seemed to be physically very hunched up. Walking or sitting her head was bowed low to the ground. I tried to get her to sit upright, to drink her tea or for biscuits, but she couldn’t do it. She seemed to be closing up. Isabelle solved the dilemma of taking Mum back, by offering to give us all a lift home. Mammy was just so heavy and weighed down with grief/depression/drugs? I carried some of it back home with me.


Today I called Mum’s CPN. She explained her role in Mum’s care in terms of psychiatry/medication. The Trazodone is to help control Mum’s agitation and depression. She is now on 250mg per day. The CPN will be going to see her this morning and will speak to me later.

Broad Glade then phoned me. Mum has been ‘swearing at and hitting staff’; has been refusing help – dressing, eating and drinking; hasn’t slept for two nights, has been pacing around and won’t come out of her room. They are having a meeting on Friday, for the Nursing Assessment (NHS review), as they feel that Mum now needs a higher level of care.

I believed Broad Glade to be exaggerating, so I decided not to go in until tomorrow morning. Instead I went, as planned, with Conor and Isabelle’s crew to the Ice Stadium and had to take Josh for his eye-test.

Then I began to think about Mammy again.

Chapter 14

I had a call from the Social Worker this morning, to say that Mum ‘attacked the CPN’ yesterday.

The same CPN went together with the Social Worker this morning and Mum ‘attacked’ them both. I should have gone up there yesterday. Mum has not drunk anything and has refused medication and food. She has physically attacked one of the carers too. They think that she needs to be ‘sectioned’ in a secure hospital unit until she can be sorted out.

I’m going straight there.

They don’t want me to see Mum first. They want me to wait until they are all there – dementia doctor, Social Worker and Mum’s GP – as the Social Worker requires both of their signatures to get Mum sectioned. They are meeting at 11.30am.

I want to go and calm Mum down. She sounds scared and like she feels cornered. I didn’t expect this. It all sounds so serious and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

Conor has had to come with me as I can’t leave him home alone – I don’t know how long I’ll be. I warned him that he might have to play quietly outside and might not be able to see Nana straight away.

Mum’s ‘unit’ has been cleared of residents. I can feel my heart beating. It all feels very over dramatic – almost comical somehow. I can’t leave her like this so I knock on Mum’s door and hear her growl an emphatic “GO AWAY!”

Opening the door I see her lunge towards me with manic movements and scary eyes.

“Mammy,” I plead, “It’s me, Dawn, your daughter…”

“GO AWAY!” she hisses, demoniacally.

I plead again and she rushes towards me, hands grasping, teeth clenched and growling,

“…Or I’ll f***ing kill you!”

Snatching her hands I try to look her in the eyes. She fights me and tries to bite my hands, but fortunately I am physically strong too. She slams the door into me as I try to squeeze through, but she seems to have a room full of invisible guests, with whom she is busy arguing.

She really seems like a person ‘possessed’ and tormented. I come away, because I can see I am not helping and because Conor has followed me down and is becoming very distressed at this hideous sight…


The Social Worker and doctor explained to me that Mum would go to the St Peter’s Wing at the hospital and be properly assessed there. She gave me all the contact details I would need and sent us away, before the ambulance and police came to restrain my poor little Mammy and take her away.

We were quite shaken up by the time we got home. Conor knew it wasn’t Nana, but was like a bad spirit that had made her ill. Broad Glade is no longer adequate for Mum, so something better will come of this.


Part 3 Sectioned! Hallucinations, drugs and laundry.

A nurse from St Peter’s Wing phoned to give me an update. They expect Mum to be there between 6-8 weeks, during which time they will investigate her responses to different treatments, drugs and environments to see what will be best for her. She said she expects me to come regularly and to do Mum’s laundry. Mum had no belongings with her, so I need to take her some clothes and toiletries urgently. She advised me not to bring the children, as the ward ‘can be quite distressing’ and scary, with ‘unpredictable behaviour, screaming and some violent outbursts’. Visiting hours are quite strictly 2-4pm and 6-8pm. Mum has two key nurses assigned to her. This is my Mammy they are referring to.

‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ springs to mind. Not a lot has changed institutionally it seems. But I haven’t been yet, so I cannot judge. I am still in shock, I think.

The Social Worker then phoned, to say that Mum had ‘put up a good fight’ not to leave the room, but when she arrived at St Peter’s Wing ‘she changed completely!’ Apparently she responded to tea and biscuits and tried to communicate to the Social Worker that she knew that they were doing their best to help her, but that she didn’t understand what was happening. She asked where I was and he told her that I had been there this morning. She wanted to know why I wasn’t with her then.

It was good of him to phone me. I felt a bit better.

I am down in their paperwork as ‘nearest relative’ and Debbie as ‘next of kin’. The Social Worker did phone Debbie, after phoning me this morning, before they ‘took her away’. I can recall my dad singing, ‘They’re coming to take you away; ha, ha!’

I’d better tell Monica and Julia too.

Isabelle took me back down to Broad Glade to pick up some things for Mum, but I’ll take them tomorrow, as I’m completely drained now.

I was surprised that Broad Glade seem to be in a hurry to clear her room and give me all her stuff. I wasn’t prepared for that and said I had come only for immediate supplies, but that I would be in touch after speaking to St Peter’s Wing. As far as I know, no decision has yet been made for her not to go back to Broad Glade, even if it is not the most suitable place for her. Still, they will have to wait for me to take a larger hold-all to clear it properly, but I’d better check with the Social Worker first. It seems to be another new era of the unknown…