Rita, my mum, is 88 years old.

She lives permanently in a residential home as she needs full time care. Following knee surgery she can now no longer walk. The surgery was to enable her to remain living independently in her own sheltered apartment. Life was a struggle on her own, but she was adamant that she would not go into care.

After the surgery Rita made no progress in her rehabilitation, despite the efforts of the physiotherapists who came each day to try and work with her to get her walking. She did not seem to understand that to be able to walk she must exercise and learn to walk again. She seemed to have no memory of people trying to help her. She seemed to be waiting. She is still waiting.

Rita has moderate dementia, probably exacerbated by the trauma of surgery. She has Multiple Sclerosis and arthritis in her back and legs. She is lifted from, and back to bed each day. She is lifted to the comode. Most of her day is spent in her wheelchair.

Rita loses concentration very easily and gets quickly confused. She sometimes can’t finish sentences as she can’t remember the point, or the point vanishes before she gets to it. Sometimes she is as bright as a button.

I spent a week with Rita in the days preceding the wedding of her grand-daughter. I wanted to show the personal day-to-day reality of my mum as she has tried to come to terms with the new situation in which she has found herself, and the dignity she has managed to maintain throughout.

After dad died a few years ago mum lived on her own despite her health problems and her worsening mobility. 

I called her on the phone frequently.

‘How are you mum?’

Oh I’m struggling Neil.

Now she has friends. She has company. She has help.

She has stopped struggling.

But she wants to go home.

Mary recently moved to the dementia wing of the home where the residents receive specialist care and have additional security to keep them safe.

Mum and Mary meet upstairs on Wednesdays when they both have their hair cut and styled.

Mary cried when she saw Rita.

Mum didn’t recognise her friend. Later she said she knew who she was.

She doesn’t know what’s going on, poor soul.

Mum was confused about whose wedding she was going to, sometimes thinking it was my sister Meryl’s. She started calling it The Family Wedding. 

She always recognises Meryl and I, but often gets confused about other people, even those she has known a long time. She seems to try and hide this most of the time if she can.

I asked her if she was ready to go.

‘The nurse told us that it isn’t good for you to be sitting in the same position all day – she said you should go home for some time lying down’

Well the nurse isn’t the one who has to be in the wheelchair is she! I’m staying!

So we stayed. It was the best time mum had had for a very long time.

I slept like a log!

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