TV Presenter and Ambassador for charity the Alzheimer’s Society, Angela Rippon tells us how she coped with her mother’s illness
From issue 6, Spring 2010
Can you tell us how your mother’s illness started?
“My father died suddenly in 2004 and it was a great shock. My parents loved each other dearly and having been married for 61 years were totally devoted to each other. When he died, my mother went into shock and began to suffer from confusion and panic attacks. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea what to do or how to help her which I found very isolating.”
What did you do next?
“Mother needed more help with care which I arranged. People visited everyday but my mother would forget and ring me to say she was lonely. It was heart breaking. Eventually her health deteriorated and she became totally dependent on us. I kept her at home, with support from carers, for as long as possible, but eventually we had to move her to a care home.”
How hard it is to deal with Alzheimer’s?
“Caring for a person with dementia is very difficult. For people living with their relative it is physically demanding to be a carer. Although I was living in London and my mother lived in Devon, I would speak to her every day and spend time with her when I was able to. Initially, when my mother first snapped at me, which was unlike her, I became angry back, but realised that it wasn’t really her and that I could not take it personally. Staying calm and relaxed helped me to deal with that side of things. It’s important not to feel like you have to go through dementia alone. Involve family or close friends and don’t feel guilty about asking for help. Seek a care assessment and talk to your GP about support groups in your area – like the Alzheimer’s Society.”
What about coping with the financial pressures?
“Talk to your local authority about getting a care assessment as soon as possible, as you may qualify for some financial support. If you are caring for someone in the later stages, keep detailed records of how much care and support the person needs. If you are not happy with the outcome don’t be afraid to ask questions or speak to your local Alzheimer’s Society branch for support and advice.”
Can you tell us a bit about your campaign to support people with dementia and improve the care they get?
“I’m supporting Alzheimer’s Society’s Putting Care Right campaign which aims to improve the care of people with dementia, particularly in hospitals. A quarter of all hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia and yet staff aren’t getting the support they need.”
What support do you think a carer needs?
“In terms of support for carers I’d stress the importance of not feeling alone. It’s not just the physical and emotional demands of acting as a carer, which can be exhausting, it’s also the loss you feel as the person you love goes through significant changes. With my mother I realised that we had to live for the moment and make all our time together enjoyable and special. Getting support from others, including other carers who you can share your experiences with, can really help. Talk to the Alzheimer’s Society and they will put you in touch with your local group.”
If you need support and advice on dealing with Alzheimer’s visit www.alzheimers.org.uk or call their helpline 0845 300 0336.