Humans of Scotland

Gillian’s story – caring during COVID-19

"It has been a year where those of us who were capable simply had to put others first, embracing a human to human kindness."

This story is about: Unpaid CareDementia

“I never thought it was possible, the idea of having dementia and being contented. There’s a book by that title, it was one of the first I read when my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around 2009. Mum just celebrated her 90th birthday. Every additional year is a surprise and a blessing and I’m happy to report that now, she’s in a place of contentment.

With the arrival of COVID-19, we suspended mum’s care package last March and I moved into my brother’s home to help care for mum.  Basically, we’ve shielded ourselves since.

The experience has transformed my brother and I into introverted, unsociable recluses. Yet a quiet life seems to have suited mum.  Every day she is happy, laughing, smiling at something, be it playing with balloons, sorting cards, cosying into her fidget muff, or enthusiastically feeding herself any food that has been carefully dissected into wee squares. Tho’ she will let us know when her sippy cup of lukewarm tea is empty by gently banging it on the table.

When we smile cheerfully to interact with her, she gives the same right back with bells on.  Being constantly enthusiastic does take its toll so my bro and I give each other time out, so that we can maintain our inner cheerleader.  We also bought in help for her 90th birthday celebrations in the shape of Sir David Attenborough and Dame Judy Dench.  Well, their life-size cardboard cut-outs. The esteemed celebs have taken on new roles as mum-sitters. When mum can see David or Judy close up, she will chat away to her new best friends.

The vaccine along with sunnier days have given us confidence to emerge from our hibernation. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones or who were kept apart from those they love in care homes.

So far, touch wood, we have come through this reasonably intact.  It has been a year where those of us who were capable simply had to put others first, embracing a human to human kindness that can, in our case, keep even dementia contented.”