Lisa and Norma

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My mother in law, Norma Jamieson, was diagnosed with Dementia, around 4 years ago.

She was referred to a specialist whom confirmed she had Alzheimer’s, and placed Norma on medication. Norma lived alone in Balwyn North, as she had done since her separation from my father in law some 25-30 years earlier.

Initially the medication seemed to help a little, and then it seemed to be preventing her disease from progressing. Norma did have other issues, something to do with her thyroid, which had mental ability complications, also heart disease.

At this stage, whilst Norma was fairly forgetful, it was mainly only affecting things that were not vital or life threatening. We spoke to her often by telephone, but as we lived a good two hours away, spending lots of time, or visiting Norma often was not a possibility. We had two teenage children, our own business to run, plus we were building our new house.

As time passed, and Norma’s disease progressed, we found she often did not want to engage in long phone conversations.

In hindsight, she was deteriorating faster than we were noticing, and was having difficulties keeping up the conversation and understanding what was being discussed. During our visits she seemed to be able to collect herself enough so that she seemed ‘normal’, so we dismissed problems with the phone calls. On special occasions, we did notice her ability to cook was waning, but at nearly 80 years of age, that was hardly a surprise.

So we started going out.  Norma liked a drop of red wine, so on the couple of occasions when she seemed confused or unable to handle a situation (out, at home, or on the phone) we wrote it off, blaming the wine. Norma then refused to let the meals on wheels person in and we discovered she had not been taking her medication regularly. Norma then would not let the home help in. Norma had not been taking her medication, plus she had not been eating, and was dehydrated. There were then several alarming issues all within a few months. Norma had a fall taking the bins out. She visited her GP, but a few weeks later ended up in hospital with an undiagnosed broken arm. We assumed the pain and trauma she had been through was causing her confusion and deteriorated mental ability.

Norma never went home again.

It has been almost two years since that last trip to hospital. She is now in a nursing home in Balwyn. She remembers little, but it is easy to have a conversation with her as her mind still works in an orderly fashion. The hardest thing I find, is Norma is still capable of taking care of her personal needs, and is physically quite able & stable. She has interests, and enjoys joining in on activities.  She is quite settled, and fully understands she needs to be there for the staff to take care of her, so at least she is happy. Norma will be 82 this September.