Anyone caring for a loved one with dementia will know that it’s easy to worry constantly about the present and the future. When I was caring for my mum, I used to worry about what was going to happen when I woke up each morning. I wondered how many times the phone would ring. How many times I would need to reassure mum she had no appointments that day and didn’t need to be anywhere or do anything. I would also worry about the long-term future. I feared for her future care. I worried about whether or not she should go in a home and whether it would be the right thing for her. I worried about how I would encourage her to accept it would be the best solution one day. In short, I worried about the present and I worried about the future. The stress was unbearable sometimes. In a nutshell though, I also worried about things that I didn’t need to think about.
When mum was first admitted to a nursing home, she was very angry and aggressive. She was well known for her mood swings. I feared that the staff would find her too much to cope with. I liked the nursing home as it was apparent that staff there were doing their best and genuinely cared about the residents. So I worried that she wouldn’t always be able to afford to live there. And I let my mind run wild. I began to think about what her life would be like if she had to be transferred to a home where the care wasn’t so good. Then what would happen to her? I also thought about getting a second job to raise more funds to keep her where she was. I worried that it would make me ill. In short, the worry was endless.
Then one day I spoke to a member of staff at mum’s nursing home who helped to put things into perspective. She said to me: ‘You are worrying about what might happen in two to five years’ time but in fact you really only need to worry about the next six months. Concentrate on getting through the next six months and don’t think too far beyond that.’
She turned out to be right. Many of the things I worried about never happened. Mum stayed in the nursing home until she died. She didn’t have to move somewhere else. I held her hand as she drew her final few breaths. I worried about her falling over in the nursing home. She didn’t fall. The staff did a wonderful job of looking after her. I worried about her forgetting who I was one day. She didn’t ever completely forget me. She had moments where she confused me with the care home staff, but most of the time she knew who I was, even right at the end. I also worried about her being on her own when she passed away. She wasn’t. I was with her. I held her hand as she drew her final few breaths.
I was right to be worried about the day to day situations. In some ways, worry can be productive, as it can galvanise you into action. When mum lived on her own and I feared for her safety, worrying about the situation encouraged me to do something about it. I got her home help. But in reality, many of the things I feared would happen in the long-term never happened. It’s thought that 80 per cent of the things we worry about never happen. My advice to anyone caring for a loved one is to focus on the day to day situations. Don’t think too far ahead. Sure, plan ahead. Get the person’s paperwork and Lasting Power of Attorney organised. But once that’s done, don’t torment yourself with a fear of how things are going to be in the future. Your fears may be unfounded. Focus on the now.