LANDISA | Taking care of my 79-year-old mother during SA's national lockdown

Mumsie with her mother (supplied)
Mumsie with her mother (supplied)

She will be 80 years old in July this year. It really is very difficult to carry her back and forth but it’s also very hard for one person to take care of her, writes Mumsie Mariah. 

My name is Mumsie Mariah and am the eldest daughter of my parents. I have two sisters and a brother. My dad died 30 years ago.

My mum was diagnosed with dementia and got progressively worse over time. At first, we didn’t really think it was dementia because our doctor told us it was due to her age that she was getting forgetful and we should try not to leave her alone and get her to do puzzles and colouring etc. But we explained to doctor that she had never attended school in her life, so she cannot read or write. We did buy her colouring book, though, however it seemed her attention span was very short and so was her memory. She would remember our names and forget them just as quickly. 

My mum was a very neat and tidy person both with her personal hygiene and her home, but over time we noticed her interest for being clean was beginning to slip and we could not understand why. Then she gradually lost understanding her bowel movements and it became very distressing for her that she would pee and poo wherever she was instead of going to the loo. It became very difficult for us to take her anywhere, like visits to other family or even to the malls or park on outings which she loved to do.

My sister and I decided to start using diapers for her and at first, she did not want to wear them. But after our insistence and a few weeks, she got used to them. When it came to bathing she needed assistance because she would go have a bath and take off her clothes and forget what to do and come out without having done anything. It was the same when it came to eating, she would sit at the table and maybe take a bite or sip and then look around blank not knowing what to do next. She was still mobile at this time.

In the beginning she used to come to my place every alternate week. On the 1 May 2019 on her way to the bathroom, she slipped and fell. We rushed her to the hospital because she was crying and seemed to be in pain and after having x-rays done, we discovered she had broken her thigh bone in two. On 23 May 2019 she had an operation and was discharged three days later. She's been bedridden since then. In the beginning we tried to get her to walk, but with her state of mind she just cannot understand us when we try to communicate with her. Now we do everything for her in bed from bathing to feeding her.

My sister and I still take turns caring for her every alternate week.

Sadly it’s becoming emotionally draining for us to see her like this. She doesn’t speak or understand anything or know anyone neither her children nor grandchildren nor any other family members. My mum is a very loving and caring person and it’s heartbreaking to see her in this state. 

She will be 80 years old in July this year. It really is very difficult to carry her back and forth but it’s also very hard for one person to take care of her. In saying that, we will not ever think of admitting her in frail care or home for the aged.

- Mumsie is retired and lives in KwaZulu-Natal. 

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