Mark is one of the community of carers at Mobilise. Here he shares how Cass the Border Collie brings joy and more to him and his mum.
My story on how helpful having a pet around starts with myself following two strokes back in 2015, basically retiring from teaching and having to concentrate on my health. What better way for daily walks than having a dog to take and talk to as I exercise?
Little did I know at the time how helpful Cass my border collie would be in caring for my mum when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with vascular dementia in early 2016.
Cass certainly helped me get back to health both physically and mental. Was it possible she could share her collie skills by helping Mum? The answer has been a resounding yes.
Having retired I was lucky to be able to honour my promise to Mum that I would never place her in a home, having seen back as a 30-year-old how my gran died (that is another story).
So living with Mum was my top priority and I soon discovered I was on a fast learning curve knowing nothing about the awful disease.
Mum's eyesight and hearing were already poor, she had managed to cope but it was clear she was unable to look after herself anymore. So living with me was the easiest decision.
Many of you will know the pitfalls and difficulties of living with the illness and its various stages but perhaps not the benefit of having a pet. So this is where Cass my wonderfully clever collie comes in. Cass has a routine, knows the time of day and certainly what she wants, by signalling to me with her eyes, shaking paw and barks.
However, her skills at calming Mum when her anxiety levels increase on a variety of matters, is a wonder to witness. Cass sits at Mum's feet as though to say "it's time for my pat and stroke". Mum seems to know what Cass wants and does so. Cass gently and slowly at nights moves into position next to Mum on the couch, in anticipation that Mum's hands need to touch an item that helps her settle.
When it comes to memory I have found through watching Cass and Mum together, Mum talks to her and never forgets her name nor that she belongs at the house with the owner. As she often these days forgets my name and who I am, a sad fact that I have got used too.
Cass follows Mum around and helps first thing in the morning, starting with a sloppy kiss in bed. Then, as I wash and dress Mum, Cass is on hand to reassure, she is there for her.
Same when putting her to bed at night, the routine helps Mum and she feels at total ease with Cass and her playing around her or watching lying on her bed.
Cass even sits with her when it is meal time on the chance Mum might throw the ball placed by Cass at her feet. To me this keeps me smiling and it is a joy to watch. Looking after a 90 year old parent on one's own is never easy, as others with testify.
Having a trusty friend there to help and comfort is a big bonus and one I never dreamed of when Cass first came into my life as an eight-week-old pup back in 2016.
Does anyone else have a pet that helps with the caring?
It was so lovely to read Mark's story. We'd love to hear more so do get in touch!
Don't forget! We also have virtual cuppas which are from Monday to Friday. Join us for laughs, a fun chat and deep conversations. If that is too big a step, join our Mobilise Hub to connect with other unpaid carers.