Businesswoman Monica Bradley had to juggle long hours at work running her own company with caring for her mother, Agnes. Here’s her story…
I’m used to hard work. I built a successful mortgage broker’s business from scratch. I have been self-employed for 30 years. I started my business entirely on my own in my early twenties and worked hard to build a regular base of loyal clients. It’s taken a lot of hard work to reach the stage where I could expand and recruit a team a team of experienced brokers. So I’m no stranger to pressure or long working hours. But when my mum became ill with dementia six years ago, I realised that life was going to become even more demanding.
My mother Agnes was born in Ireland on a farm. She was part of a large family and had ten siblings. She used to be a staff nurse so she spent her entire working life caring for others. She liked a joke and a laugh, and was a jolly, friendly, person. She was popular too. When my father passed away in 2012, I noticed mum began to change. I suspected she had dementia when she began forgetting things and repeating herself frequently. She also began losing things. She didn’t want to speak to her family on the phone in Ireland because she knew she couldn’t hold a conversation.
When mum was diagnosed with dementia, I became her primary carer. I juggled my busy job with taking care of mum’s needs. I took her to appointments, made sure her fridge was stocked and her house was clean and generally took care of everything. Mum always took a lot of pride in her appearance, but when a person has dementia, this can sometimes change and it’s not unusual for them to become less interested in how they look. I made sure mum had her hair cut and dyed regularly and took her to a beauty salon where she had her nails done and her eyebrows tinted. Everything that mum would have cared about was maintained, as I knew that these things would have been important to her.
Mum would often come to stay with me and I would cook her meals and make sure she felt safe and loved. It put an enormous strain on me as I was still working very long hours in my business. I had to juggle mum’s wellbeing with running a company that was expanding. My working hours were long – caring for mum on top of those hours was mentally and physically exhausting. Exercise helped me combat stress. I went to the gym regularly and enjoyed yoga. I think it’s important for a carer to find some time for themselves in order to recharge their batteries. I had help and support from friends but I genuinely feel that unless you are going through it yourself, it’s impossible to understand how difficult and challenging it can be to care for a person with dementia.
My good friend Christina Neal, who has gone on to launch Dementia Help, was caring for her mother Hazel at the same time. Hazel had vascular dementia and was prone to mood swings and aggressive behaviour. I was fortunate that my mum was generally quite easy going and agreeable to most things. Sadly, mum died three years ago. I miss her terribly.
My advice to anyone caring for a loved one with dementia is to try and get as much support as possible. Several of my work colleagues stepped in to help when they could. This made all the difference. I would also recommend learning as much as you can about the condition. The more you understand about it the better.
Another key point to mention is that it’s important to organise Lasting Power of Attorney for Property & Finance and Health & Welfare. Don’t leave it until it’s too late. You can still organise this when the person with dementia has been diagnosed, provided they understand what they are signing. Don’t wait until they no longer have capacity. It’s also important to make sure the person has an up to date will.
Sadly, my mum became ill and passed away in hospital on 11th January 2015. I miss her tremendously. It was a great honour to care for her. She was a lovely person and deserved the best possible care. I understand the challenges that other carers face, and my respect and admiration goes out to everyone doing their best to care for a loved one. You always feel like you could do more, and the guilt never quite goes away, but I can console myself with the fact that, in my heart of hearts, I know I did my best for my lovely mum.
Monica’s company, Monica Bradley Associates, assists many people who want to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. To contact her for a friendly, no obligation conversation, call 020 8652 5240 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the MBA website at mbassociates.net