Lois Wolffe

Lois's Taking Smock Of The Situation

Fundraising for Alzheimer Scotland
raised of £1,333 target
by 45 supporters
Alzheimer Scotland

Verified by JustGiving

RCN SC022315
We support people with dementia in Scotland to make sure nobody faces dementia alone



It’s Loïs!

I’m a menopausal woman living in rural central Scotland with my bidie-in*, two dogs, a cat called Miso and a diminishing flock of hens. 

In 2020, Mum was struggling with the enforced isolation of lockdown (though she didn’t admit it) and she decided to join me in a daily creative initiative, the 100 Days Project. I made a big blanket out of crochet squares; at 89 years old, Mum was infirm and was going blind, but each day she painted whatever took her eye in her garden. It was fun to put creativity at the centre of our days, and it gave both of us a sense of purpose and structure, which was much appreciated in the chaos of lockdown.. We lived 100 miles apart, so she would take a picture and send it to me; she would also research what she was painting some days, so she could add in the Latin names of plants, or tell me more about each subject when we spoke each evening. 

She loved this project. But after Day 82 she just stopped and did not pick up a pencil again. 

I moved to Galloway to create a bubble with Mum in January 2021, as we were worried about her infirmity. It became clear that she was somehow out of kilter, not quite herself. Initially I couldn't quite put my finger on it, wondered if it was just a reaction to a year of isolation, but within a few days I was googling. 

Mum ticked every box for early stages of dementia. 

At the end of April she received a diagnosis (over the phone) of complex mixed dementia. With hindsight, it seems likely that Mum had a series of mini strokes during that first lockdown year, and that on Day 82 it impacted her ability to translate what she was looking at onto the page. 

So there I was, in Galloway, caring for Mum, when the 2021 #100daysproject started. I had found Mum’s old fisherman's smock which she wore every day when she was younger as a clay sculptor. She hadn't worn it for years and gifted it to me. I knew right then I wanted to use it as a canvas, to embellish it, to embroider it with life. With her life.

Each embroidered design connects to Mum in some way, tells some of her story. Initially she helped me choose images to adapt; her paintings inspired designs; and other designs are created by her grandson, Max. I had no idea if I had the skill to pull this off and create something more beautiful and meaningful than the smock itself, but I knew each stitch would be so full of love for the remarkable woman who made me. 

As I was gently stitching each slow stitch, embellishing her old smock, stitching down her stories, Mum’s actual memories were falling away… 

She now lives in a care home and has no recollection that she could ever draw. 

But her stories live on. 

Lockdown made everything more difficult in so many ways didn’t it? My brother and I shared the caring of Mum, staying with her on our own for several weeks and then swapping out for the other one, in a surreal game of ‘care tag’. We weren’t allowed to be in the same room together, so we left increasingly long notes for each other, to highlight any changes with Mum – “she no longer gets dressed for breakfast”, “she needs help in the loo”, “she panics if she is parted from her address book or mobile phone”, “she is wandering and confused at night”. Knowing I was not carrying this alone helped me cope, helped me to always focus on what was best for Mum. 

Not everyone has someone else they can share caring with. And I cannot conceive of how hard it must be for them. 

You can live well with dementia, you can flourish. Alzheimer Scotland can help in all sorts of ways. But it costs money to drive change, to provide a 24 hour helpline, to research, to make sure that no-one faces dementia alone. 

This embroidered smock might not be the most challenging thing I have ever done, but caring for Mum and watching her as she eases towards end of life these last years has been. If this touches your heart, please make a donation.  

I have charted the progress of the smock, of Mum's dementia, of how I coped (or didn't). If you want to see how it’s been going, head to my blog at https://shewolfinthevalley.com/.

Mum always hoped to exhibit her lockdown drawings, her ‘love letter to her garden’ one day. In early 2023 they were included in an online exhibition, which you can see here: https://www.100daysscotland.co.uk/alix-wolffe

*Bidie-in – Scottish word for your co-habiting partner, or live-in lover if you prefer (and I do), from the verb ‘to bide’ which means to live

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About the charity

Alzheimer Scotland

Verified by JustGiving

RCN SC022315
Alzheimer Scotland offers care, information and support to people with dementia and carers in Scotland. Our services include our 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline (0808 808 3000), our Dementia Advisors, Dementia Nurses and medical research. We believe nobody should face dementia alone.

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