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This is a site dedicated to the memory of my mum. It contains a flavour of the book 'Dementia and Mum' that I have recently published along with other information and photographs that illustrates her life.

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From the Foreword to the book:

“Why don’t you call the book Demumtia?” exclaimed Kevin. It had been a remark from one of my colleagues at work that dominated my thoughts whilst jogging towards Kew Bridge one Saturday morning during the summer of 2010. Consequently, my failure to concentrate on the river path soon resulted in me tripping up on the uneven ground. Luckily, nobody was around to witness such an embarrassing fall, or hear the ensuing reactions, as my momentum caused me to slide further on, face downwards, for just a few more feet along the gravelly surface of the route. In between a few expletives, I spat out the dusty material, which had suddenly been disturbed to form a rising cloud around me, made all the more dry by a lack of rainfall over the previous few weeks.

      Before picking myself up to inspect the cuts and grazes sustained, I spent some moments, flat on my stomach, reflecting on the suggestion offered by the PE teacher just a few days earlier. Yes, it seemed a clever play on words following my brief description of the story – one revolving around my mother’s final few years that had been dominated by dementia and my attempt to look after her – but probably too flippant to use, given the seriousness of the illness. It is a condition that already must have blighted millions of lives around the world – its significance further compounded by acknowledging all those cases still awaiting a future diagnosis. Moreover, it doesn’t stop there – with every passing year the number of relatives upon whom the responsibility of care is entrusted appears to show no signs of abating. And yet – perhaps because the experience with my mother was not all doom and gloom – it was a quirky title that I did not dismiss immediately.

      For me there was no lack of motivation to write this biography, once sufficient time had passed following my mother’s death, but for you – the reader – what might compel you to continue turning the pages? After all, she had, apart from the war years, led a relatively ordinary life. Her only claim to fame – that she was a cousin to an accomplished actor, Alfred Molina– was a rather tenuous one, not that the merits of reading this account should be determined, in my opinion, by such a fleeting factor as celebrity status. It may seem ironic, but in many respects dementia gave me a positive reason to write some sort of memoir of her life that went beyond one driven purely by sentiment. Sure, the debilitating nature of the illness means that some aspects of the chronicle inevitably can be harrowing and sad to read. However, that is not to preclude a very encouraging message that is an overriding theme running through the book – that it is possible to provide a level of care that makes those last few years still worthwhile and not just a mere existence. Amongst memories of the decline being experienced – mainly mental – but in the end even physical, there were still many moments of laughter, energy, accomplishment and hope.

      Of course, one option is to bury one’s head in the sand and pray that dementia never visits you, a close friend or member of your family. If you prefer escapism, then perhaps you shouldn’t read on – this may not be for you. It is a real story – where the rawness of the account isn’t meant to cause offence but – to avoid compromising the truth – it hasn’t been sanitised either. However, before giving up, consider the next point for one moment – the wish for your life to be completely untouched by a problem that is so prevalent and pervasive remains, statistically, one that is unlikely to be fulfilled. If, on the other hand, you prefer to be prepared, or simply to allow you to compare experiences because you are, or have been, in a similar position, then my story should provide a fountain of information – maybe even a source of inspiration. It is not meant to serve as a model guide on caring and I would be the first to admit that along the way I made mistakes. Nevertheless, I believe anyone willing to invest the ten or so hours required to read the following chapters will emerge, maybe emotionally drained for a short while, but in a far better position to face some of the challenges that dementia can throw at both the carer and the person gradually losing memory and cognitive skills. It is quite possible that you might even be surprised by some of the unexpected twists that occur as the depiction unravels, especially when a beautiful young woman appears on the scene to offer help. 

      Perhaps the most important message that I would like to leave the reader with is this – that the situation isn’t one that is just pitiful. A denial of its existence is likely to be the first reaction to any suspicion of dementia, but once the evidence increasingly points towards such a conclusion, then thoughts can be more constructively focused on trying to find solutions. With sufficient help, the sufferer can still experience a very worthwhile and purposeful life, even for most of the latter stages of the illness. As a result, living at home can be prolonged, especially if the burden of care is shared. Whoever provides such support, particularly if it is offered on a very frequent basis, will probably be rewarded by a sense of satisfaction at overcoming many of the obstacles that inevitably have to be faced. As the narrative unfolds, expect to gain a picture of the sacrifices required and strategies used to cope with the stressful challenges encountered at both a physical and psychological level.

      What may come as a reassuring surprise is the likelihood that the care given to a loved one is often appreciated. Possibly even more of a miracle, but one that might only occur if daily contact is maintained for a reasonable length of time, is that you are still recognised as someone important – even if not correctly identified as a friend, son or any other close relative for that matter.

       Anybody reading this account who knows me might be wondering why I have used a different surname. The one chosen is my mother’s Italian maiden name. The main reason is simple. The content of this book is of a very personal nature and therefore to protect the anonymity of close members of the family, I have avoided using my father’s East European surname. Containing letters not commonly used in Italian, notably k, w, y and, to a lesser extent, h, in an unusual combination, it was no surprise that Mum experienced difficulties in signing her married name towards the end. Moreover, for a more general readership, her original Fassio name is a much easier one to deal with. 

      Finally, and in a small way, its use also serves to pay a tribute to my grandfather by keeping his family name alive despite having three daughters but no surviving son.

 

© Michael Fassio 2011