The Dog's In The Oven

The Dog’s In The Oven…

Posted in Uncategorized by dogintheoven on March 4, 2010

I am living with Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t have it myself (at least, I don’t think I do) but it is part of my everyday existence at the moment and something that occupies a great deal of my mind in many different ways. I have a good job and a busy life and, if it wasn’t for a change in my own circumstances, my relationship with dementia would have been a far more long-distance and less intimate affair. But change and Alzheimer’s have entered my life and, at this stage at least, that’s not quite as bad as it may seem!

It’s my mother who has this blasted disease. She was diagnosed two years ago but there had been signs of its onset for a good while before we had the medical confirmation. We all put these signs down to her naturally rather scatty character simply getting more pronounced as the she got older. She would lose things, forget the names of people she’d seen, of places she’d visited and you’d often have the same conversation on the phone several times during one call. It was something we all recognised, but until denial was no longer an option, it was something we could all smile about, make allowances for and all get on with life very much as we’d always done.

So when the diagnosis came, it was certainly not a shock – but it did change everything.

Suddenly we had a name to explain my mother’s behaviour – and what a name it was. Alzheimer’s, one of the big ones.

Like cancer, it’s a disease everyone’s heard of and, increasingly it seems, most know someone suffering with it somewhere. We’ve all heard the many depressing stories of sufferers slowly losing all reason, all dignity and shuffling slowly and almost unconsciously along a dingy nursing home corridor towards death. We have all seen pessimistic media coverage of how more and more of us will end up on this corridor and that there is still no cure; no cure even in sight.

We all seem to know how the disease will slowly strip away who the person suffering with it actually is, slowly take away a life and leave a husk, unable to live as you or I, confined to a world of confusion, fear, sadness and no hope for anything better to come. A slow, relentless, unstoppable decline into a non-person.

At least, that’s what I used to think and, in my darker moments when reflecting on the way society views the person with Alzheimer’s disease, I still believe that’s essentially how it is. What I have learned, however, is that in walking along this corridor with someone with dementia, there are moments of great happiness, great memories, great sadness, great challenges, great moments of clarity and great moments of despair. In fact, walking down this corridor of dementia is just life and life the same as yours or mine. The only difference is that the person with you has no memory of the here and now, cannot store new information and gets confused about the every day – but that’s not all that they are; they are still there, still the same person and still deserving of the same love, care and respect as anyone else in life, whatever corridor they are on.

Dementia doesn’t have to be this depressing decline into nothingness that accompanies all our preconceived ideas of the disease. Careful management, focusing on what can be done, rather than what can’t and a great deal of patience can all help smooth the path for both sufferer and carer.

All I’ve written so far, of course, is the easy bit. As many of you reading this will already know (and most much more than me), however you reflect on the disease, living with it, managing it and being patient is all bloody, bloody tough.

In my case, however, I do the simple stuff, my sisters and my brother do the simple stuff. We cook, we clean, we tidy up; we comfort, we organise and we only secretly despair. But we have busy, rewarding lives away from dementia. We can escape.

So this story about living with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t about me. I hope to tell my mother’s story, my father’s story and reflect upon what I see from the inside and how the disease has affected the people who can’t escape and how they cope with the challenges it presents.

I hope this story won’t be a depressing one to read. In fact, I hope it will be very funny at times as I believe the laughter we can all share in coping with Alzheimer’s can do nothing but help. While we can all see the confusion, the anger and the frustration on my mother’s face every day, if she can laugh and we can laugh with her, you can see the happiness, too.

I was prompted to start recording my experience of living with Alzheimer’s one day last summer when I arrived back from work to find my mother alone in the house, pottering around the place, picking up specks of dust from the floor until she had enough in her hand to make a worthwhile deposit of dirt behind the breadbin in the kitchen.

I was surprised to find her alone as I hadn’t expected my father to be out and if he had been called out in a hurry, he would surely have left the dog for company.

I wonder where they are,” I said to my mother’s backside as she bent double in front of me to pick up yet another speck of dust and trying not to ask a question that I knew she wouldn’t be able to answer. “Oh, don’t worry about them,” came her familiar trill from somewhere near the floor. “I have no idea where dad’s gone, but the dog’s is in the oven.”

I didn’t think it worth checking, but when I went upstairs to deposit my laptop in my room and change from my suit, I found the family tortoise crawling slowly across my bed, a trail of white liquid smeared across the duvet behind it.

So I did have a little peak in the oven, just to be sure – but all was well, the dog wasn’t there – he had gone for a walk with my father.

Later that evening, when telling the story to my sister and while she was crying with laughter, I thought I should start writing this stuff down. Ironically, I figured, one day I may forget it all.


15 Responses

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  1. Charlotte Wolseley Brinton said, on March 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Lovely, sensitive, funny, informative and human.


  2. Esme Barker said, on March 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I found your blog via the Alzheimer’s talking point forum – my Grandad (Dad’s Dad) has this horrible condition (as did Mum’s Mum and Dad’s Stepmum) – I agree with you that sometimes you have to laugh at the things that Alzheimer’s brings…otherwise you’d be constantly depressed.
    I hope to see your future posts and hope that keeping a journal will help you to remember the good times when they occur!

    Esme xx

  3. plainprimitives said, on March 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

    What an uplifting blog! Just cooking some roast beef for my ma who has Alzheimers and was feeling sour about having to do it as I don’t eat meat. Your blog has cheered made up and made me realise I just have to get on with caring for her as best I can, and that she’s the real victim in all this misery, not me,


  4. Your sister said, on March 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    So lovely to read and remember the laughs and the care we are all giving mum. At least at the moment she is happy xxx The tortoise was escaping from the dog however and think quite a logical place to be!! Great and look forward to the next encounter x

  5. Rowena Cotterill said, on March 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    What a lovely upbeat blog, I’m so glad you’ve started writing this and putting into words those things we’ve all thought, from time to time, the funny with the heartrending. Keep it up, I look forward to reading more.

  6. Daughter said, on March 18, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Thank you for sharing your story with others! I’ve placed a link to The Dog’s In The Oven on my blog, Taking Care of Mom and Dad.


    • dogintheoven said, on March 31, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to reply and for linking my blog to yours. Having had a look through your posts it seems we are facing similar issues, responding in similar ways and then telling anyone who cares to listen all about it! Keep in touch.


  7. Sheryl said, on March 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I enjoyed your style! Please keep up your blog as you will forget but as time goes on you will cherish the laughter that you share with your mother, sister and family. The phrases that come from our alz love are priceless as we just have no idea how their mind processes any onger but the funny quotes make it better.

  8. Karen said, on March 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Yes, your posts were very funny. In fact, both had me laughing out loud until I nearly had tears in my eyes. I can relate to many of your mother’s behaviors and comments as my mother also has dementia. Like you, I have found that laughter helps me cope when nothing else will do.

    My mother doesn’t laugh very much anymore – actually she rarely laughed before. But she has smiled a couple of times recently.

    I followed the link from the forum. I will follow your blog and hope you write often.

  9. PostTenebrasLux said, on March 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    What a refreshing, revitalising and inspirational read! Just please keep the instalments coming. Your title is brilliant and eye catching – it says it all.
    I’m keeping a close eye on your Talking Point, Blog and Swim efforts.

  10. julia thompson said, on April 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you for these pictures of life with your family, it made me feel cheered and think of the funny things my mother said and did. She died 3 years ago, and its easy to remember the difficult moments, good to be reminded that there were some good times too.
    best wishes Julia

  11. karen said, on April 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I cried when I read the part of your story, where you say the things you smiled about, made allowances for with your Mum, when you all put it down to ‘more scattiness’…such familiar feelings…
    Thanks for putting into words such honest emotions.

    Best wishes and lots more smiles


  12. amelia said, on April 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you.

  13. Kathy said, on May 9, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Eagerly awaiting the nex post. I know what it’s like to try to keep down an interesting job and do all these other things as well, but i do hope you’ll find some time for the next one soon. It gives us all so much pleasure… And please try seriously to get your stuff published to reach even more readers who can gain an insight into this desease and have a laugh at the same time.

    I you’ve been off the air for a while because it’s not been funny, I completely understand that too.

    I wish you strength and a continuing sense of humour
    Best wishes, and thank you

  14. tina torkington said, on September 5, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Your account of your Mother’s illness brought tears to my eyes. My husband has vascular dementia and alzheimers. This disease strips away the person you knew like no other. Your account gave me hope that I would be able to be a little more understanding and remember what he was and not what he has become. Caring for someone with this disease is a 24/7 job and I feel anger often like your father and cheated of the golden days of retirement we planned to share.

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