Gemma* who cares for her 95-year-old Mum, living with Vascular Dementia, talks here about how our Caring Café lifts both of their spirits…

‘Before Crossroads Care came into our lives, I felt so alone with all of this. Mum had me when she was 45, so all my peers have younger parents who aren’t at the stage that Mum is. Thanks to Crossroads though, there are people that I can go to and ask questions, and they make me realise that I’m not going down the wrong route with my mum.

‘Caring for my mum has permeated every aspect of my life. I was never a drinker, but I don’t really go out and have a glass of wine with friends anymore because I might get a call from the Carer which means I have to traipse across London to get to Mum.

‘The most difficult aspect of caring is the lack of sleep. At one point, back in 2018, I spent a month waking up with mum every hour because she just wouldn’t go to sleep.

‘The thing is, you have to remain calm when dealing with Mum. If she’s accusing you of things that are just not true, you have to keep a level head because she’s so emotionally attuned. That’s really hard when I haven’t slept. I end up in pieces, but I can cope with anything after a good night’s sleep.

‘Being a Carer means you stop seeing yourself as a separate person to the person you are caring for because everything you do has to work around them. I always talk about “we”; we’re completely intertwined. It’s ingrained in everything I do to think about Mum first and how things will affect her.

‘Mum just needs to have one activity per day to stimulate her which in turn helps me. It alters her mood and changes the dynamic between us.

‘The Crossroads Caring Café is a huge hit with Mum. She especially loves the music. In fact, we call it the Singing Café rather than the Caring Café! One volunteer told Mum to practise her scales, and that got Mum singing for ages back at home. She loves the social aspect of the café too, so we go whenever it’s on.

‘The café gives you the chance to look at the landscape ahead rather than someone only opening the door when you are standing at the cliff edge. It’s also the only place where I feel that whatever happens, my mum will be treated in a way that is suited to her personally.

‘The support group at the Caring Café has really helped me. It’s a safe space where no one judges anyone else. And now, being at a later stage of caring, I feel like I have got something to contribute to people there.

‘Crossroads Care and the dementia nurse have helped me to shift my mindset about dementia. A question the nurse asked me has stuck in my head – “If your mum doesn’t want to do it, does it matter?” It’s normal to get ready for bed, for example, but it really doesn’t matter if you want to sleep in your clothes. Going to the Caring Café has helped to solidify this mindset.

‘Caring is a lonely situation made worse by the way the system has gone – so much is online and distant. You feel like organisations just say “ok, we’ve done our bit, bye bye,” so there’s no one else to turn to but Crossroads. Through Crossroads, I have got ideas on things to try with Mum and there’s always people to listen.

‘There isn’t anyone else like Crossroads. They’ve been there through it all. The level of support they offer feels absent everywhere else.’

*Name changed to protect identities.

Click here to find out more about the Caring Café.