Lynette Downes was a carer for her mum who lived with dementia for 10 years. As Lynette’s mother’s condition worsened Lynette took on more and more of the household responsibilities, moving in with her mother to ensure she could continue to live safely in her own home.
Lynette was having trouble coping with how dementia as an illness was impacting her mum’s personality and memory. For Lynette, it wasn’t only about caring but learning how to grieve the loss of her mother, despite her mum still being alive.
“She loved going for drives and seeing wildflowers so every year I would take her either down to Esperance or wherever the wildflowers were at the time. Then as she progressed and moved into an aged care facility the trips became less and less frequent…she couldn't sit or stay in the car long,” Lynette explains.
One weekend before Easter, Lynette’s mum said she'd love to go for a drive out of the blue. Surprised, Lynette took her for a drive, delighted as she saw her mum engaged and excited with the change in surroundings.
“She was pointing out the flowers and naming them, which was amazing. It was good, sort of like I was given a last chance to be with my mum before she deteriorated so quickly.”
The day after Easter Lynette’s mum fell and dislocated her shoulder.
“After the fall, she was on morphine and did not recognise anyone or anything. She just got worse with each day.”
Finding Carers WA
Carers WA provides a range of supports and services to friends and family who undertake aspects of a caring role. It is not necessary to live with the person you care for to be a family carer and access Carers WA services such as; confidential counselling and social support groups to improve social wellbeing.
Lynette was referred to Carers WA through the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).
Carers WA “…were marvellous from the start providing suggestions and resource references for mum but also mainly for my health and mental welfare.”
It was incredibly beneficial for Lynette having that first introduction to Carers WA and an ongoing information and support reference ensuring she was in the loop before her mother’s illness progressed.
“Right from the beginning, I always had a go-to place, it’s essential because otherwise where do you start?”
“I doubt I would have coped without the Carers WA services.”
After some time as dementia took its toll on her family, Lynette accessed Carers WA’s counselling service.
“I had the good fortune to be introduced to a carer counsellor who helped me immensely with coping with the loss of my ‘real’ mum and the hardships with living with a parent who has dementia.”
Lynette was grateful to be given a variety of counselling options when she decided she’d like to access counselling through Carers WA.
“I couldn't do it by phone or face-to-face because I'd start breaking down all the time and I wouldn't get anywhere…email was the best for me.”
“When I was writing an email, even if I was crying while I was doing it, I could still continue or come back to it.”
“I know a lot of people would find it very impersonal, but it was just ideal for my needs.”
Included in the Carers WA services Lynette accessed were monthly Linking Together groups in her local area.
“We'd have a luncheon and socialise with other people who were in the same predicament, telling stories and getting ideas.”
The Linking Together group in Lynette’s area provided the perfect opportunity for a regular break as it tied in well with her mother accessing day support prior to moving into an aged care facility.
When offering advice for other dementia caregivers, Lynette stressed how important it was to find support.
“I think the one suggestion I have for other carers is to get to a support group."
"Don't try and do it by yourself.”
Lynette’s sentiment is often echoed by many carers with social support groups providing vital relief and reassurance that they are not alone and they do not have to struggle alone.
If you’re interested in improving your emotional and physical health, and empowering yourself in your caring role register for a Linking Together support group near you at www.carerswa.asn.au/events/tag/linking-together-group