CLOUD OVER THE BABY BOOMERS; the Post-War Generation Has Been So Blessed -- with One Exception: They Are the First to Have to Juggle Parents with Dementia, Adolescent Children AND a Career. Here, One-Time PR Queen LYNNE FRANKS Captures the Agony of This Dilemma

Daily Mail (London), September 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

CLOUD OVER THE BABY BOOMERS; the Post-War Generation Has Been So Blessed -- with One Exception: They Are the First to Have to Juggle Parents with Dementia, Adolescent Children AND a Career. Here, One-Time PR Queen LYNNE FRANKS Captures the Agony of This Dilemma


Byline: Lynne Franks

MY MOTHER no longer seems to recognise me. At 92, she is always smartly dressed when I visit, but spends much of her time dozing in her chair.

Occasionally, her brown eyes will flicker open and she'll stare at me with a bewildered intensity. As if my identity were on the tip of her tongue. Almost.

I continue to chat away cheerily, hugging and kissing her, telling her how much I love her. But inside my heart is breaking: I miss her.

I miss our chats, her advice on anything from my love life to professional decisions and where to live. The person who was my mother, mentor and friend is no longer here. And this comes just a few years after losing my father to the same wretched disease.

It is the fate of so many of my generation: forced to watch as our beloved parents linger on, succumbing to the cruellest degenerative mental illnesses.

For all the many bonuses we baby boomers are thought to have enjoyed -- from free education to a more accessible housing market -- there is one burden we are the first to face.

Due to the advances in medical care, our parents are living longer and with that comes the increased likelihood of them developing dementia. Many face this relentless nightmare while bringing up adolescent children, who are also at a stage where they need so much of their parents' time.

To be sandwiched between those you love most is a modern agony. For instance, I certainly wasn't aware of my grandparents suffering from this insidious disease.

Even those who lived past 80 were more prone to physical illnesses than the slow shrinking of their brains and personalities.

There are now 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to more than one million by 2025. This will soar to two million by 2051. At the moment, two thirds of the cost of dementia is paid by people with the disease and their families.

Unpaid carers supporting someone with dementia save the economy PS11 billion a year. That gives an idea of how many of my generation are dealing with this problem.

And, of course, there are those -- many of my friends among them -- who find themselves sandwiched between caring for their parents and continuing to look after children (albeit in their mid to late-20s in beyond) who have boomeranged back home for whatever reason, only intensifying the pressure.

As for me, I may well have excelled in my career in PR and promoting women's empowerment -- captured hilariously in the TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous -- but with my parents' dementia I have never felt less empowered in my life.

Like many of my generation, I choose to work full-time despite the fact I'm nearing 70. Then there's the added role of being manager of Mum's life. It's not just a case of finding time to sit down with her; it's liaising with carers and planning ahead.

There's nothing like facing up to something as horrendous as dementia to make you consider your own mortality and mental fragility. There's no doubt my younger sister Sue and I are concerned that it might be hereditary.

I was in my mid-50s when my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The fact that my father had suffered from vascular dementia, dying eight years before, made it all the harder. How unfair it feels to have to watch not one but both parents alter beyond all recognition like this.

These days my mother is confined to one room in her own home, where she is lovingly fed and cared for by a number of brilliant carers.

In many respects she is fortunate, but I suspect she would have said, were she able, that she wanted to leave her body long before reaching this point.

My sister lives in Canada, so the responsibility of my mother's situation falls to me. As with motherhood, there is no training on how to become parents to your own parents.

In many respects, my parents, Leslie and Angela, didn't have it easy when we were growing up. …

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CLOUD OVER THE BABY BOOMERS; the Post-War Generation Has Been So Blessed -- with One Exception: They Are the First to Have to Juggle Parents with Dementia, Adolescent Children AND a Career. Here, One-Time PR Queen LYNNE FRANKS Captures the Agony of This Dilemma
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