My lovely neighbour rang my doorbell earlier to bring me some cake (I know, super sweet) and it inspired me to post my next story. We ended up discussing the blog and at the same time, another neighbour drove by, put down his window and said 'my wife can't stop crying at your blogs!'. Firstly, it made me realise that word is getting out and more people are becoming familiar with FTD. Secondly, it gave me motivation and encouragement to crack on with the next one.
Now I've got going, I'm actually quite excited to start this. I referred back to my timeline of events and the natural next story is my hen-do (bachelorette party for the Americans) which took place in May 2018. It feels so appropriate, it's actually the 2 year anniversary of my hen-do this weekend. It's also a topic that has had a lot of interest. I've had a number of messages from brides-to-be asking for guidance, confused about how to have the 'perfect day' given the similar situation they find themselves in. I will do a story on this, but the hen-do is a good intro!
We booked the hen-do in 2017, around the same time I visited Italy with mum. When I said Italy was the last trip we went on, I meant just the two of us for some mum/daughter time. Shortly after that, my bridesmaids had arranged for me to visit Ibiza with 11 of my hens; mum being one of them!
When I first found out mum had agreed to come, I couldn't help but think of the troubles I had faced in Italy and I'll admit, I was concerned. I prepped my hens in advance and told them that despite no official diagnosis, I was pretty sure mum had dementia and we had to be aware that her personality and behaviour had changed.
Before we go any further, there are 3 things in particular I want to mention;
My hens were amazing; everyone was understanding and looked out for mum whilst we were away.
My Aunty (mum's sister) also came with us. Mum is really close to both of her sisters and my Aunty Julie was an absolute star. They buddied up throughout and I felt super lucky to have her there.
The biggest disclaimer; this trip was the first time I experienced mum's bowel incontinence. This leads me back to my second blog when I said 'My mum is at a stage now where she won't feel embarrassment, but there's still a part of me that doesn't want to embarrass her'. Incontinence is something that I regularly deal with now and it's become the norm. However, if mum had capacity and knew I was writing publicly about this, I know she would be mortified. I am not doing this to embarrass her, I am writing honestly because incontinence is a common thing with FTD. It impacts many aspects; planning days out, spotting when it's time, and how to deal with it when it does happen. Hiding it and pretending it doesn't happen would be false. To make my blog an easier read, to respect mum, and to make me feel less guilty, I will refer to bowel incontinence as a 'small accident' going forward. At the end of the day, that's all it is.
I've had a little cry because I feel so guilty posting this, but now it's time to crack on. I always knew I would find 'being honest' hard!
Mum attending my hen-do was interesting for many reasons, but our agenda was the most interesting. I was 26 in Ibiza with 11 of my favourite girls; it was bound to be a little wild. We had a private area booked at Ocean Beach Club, a night at Café Mambo amongst pool parties, and nights down 'The Strip'. It would have been a challenge for any 62-year-old, never mind a 62-year-old with expected dementia. Nevertheless, mum was desperate to come. She could not miss her only daughter's hen do so she packed her bags and prepared herself for a party weekend! I'm so pleased she did, too.
One of the main reasons I've posted about this trip is to inform all other brides-to-be; it wasn't that hard. I was surrounded by amazing people who wanted me to celebrate and have a fantastic time. There were a few issues that I will talk about, but as a whole, mum's symptoms didn't cause a huge problem. My friends and family made it so I didn't have to worry about a thing. Not only were they understanding, but they also made sure mum had a fantastic time too. I couldn't ask for anything more.
So, the bad bits;
I had found mum's memory had started to decline at this point. Unlike most other forms of dementia, FTD doesn't always affect memory (this is what makes it harder to diagnose). Sure, behaviour and personality changes, but some people's memory stays truly intact so a simple 'memory test' won't show any abnormalities. Memory problems in mum were minor at this point, but still present. I found her telling me the same story about a handbag she bought from the market at least 4 times.
Her vocabulary had also started to decline. She was very quiet and only really spoke when spoken to. Even when she was asked questions, it was typically a brief answer.
The small accident happened. This really took me by surprise and I found it so upsetting. That night, we were visiting Sunset Strip and had 3 taxis booked to Café Mambo. We got there for a particular time to ensure we could all watch the sunset and as 'bride-to-be', I was first in the taxi. The sun had started setting when I realised the 3rd taxi hadn't arrived (the taxi mum was supposed to be in). I called to find out where they were and that's when I found out what happened. Just as she was getting into the taxi, my sister-in-law spotted the accident through her trousers. She took her back upstairs and tried to sort out the problem which led to them being late. I was really shocked, I knew things were bad but not this bad. I was so deeply sad for mum, not just because of what happened but also because she hadn't even realised. I walked to the beach and phoned my husband immediately (fiancé at the time!), but all I could do was cry.
So yes, we had a few problems but the good definitely outweighed the bad. I feel so lucky that I got to celebrate my hen do with my mum and I am so proud of her. She partied with us like she was 21 and even got in the pool at Ocean Beach Club! I built some lifelong memories and I know mum had fun, too. Below is a video and some pictures of us partying at Ocean Beach. I hope they make you smile as they do me!
PS - I only tell mum to 'come back!' because I genuinely thought she was going to drown.
PPS - Do you think mum forgot the 'orange swimsuit' memo?