Is it Care or Big Brother Puts You Into a Home?

Barely three months after being in England for the frightening vigil at my father's deathbed, we have had to make another cruel voyage. A midnight phone call informed us that my mother, lonely and grief stricken in her bereavement, had been taken into care "for her own safety."


Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease, the consultant informed me that she is rapidly losing what their jargon calls "life skills." In real language, this means things like how to boil a kettle, write a check or make a phone call.


New to this appalling disease, I can hardly grasp that my mother, a highly intelligent woman, a Cambridge graduate and superb writer, will soon forget how to get dressed and eventually fail to recognize her own daughters.


Ready to do battle for her independence, I reluctantly ended up agreeing that 24 hour care probably is the only answer. So I feel like a traitor: I've gone over to their side as she sees it, reneged on that glib promise that so many of us make when we are too young or ignorant that "I will never put you in a home." I know full well that she would rather die free next week, because she has forgotten to turn the gas off than live another 10 years a prisoner.


But in stark contrast to here, Western society is such a caring society that people are not allowed to be a danger to themselves. The only slight relief for my own guilt is that even should I refuse to consent to her incarceration, the consultant admitted that he would probably use his powers to overrule me: The state takes over guardianship and then decides what's best for her.


"It's worse than Russia," my mother, desperate to get home, kept telling Sasha. "This really is Big Brother, the way they can just march into your life and take it over."


Having lost her own parents as a child, creating the home and family that she never had has been my mother's happiest achievement. Atherstone Farm House has always been our sanctuary, piled high with books, full of beautiful things collected over a 57 year marriage, and with two welcoming parents seemingly ever waiting on the door step.


Now it stands empty, one parent's ashes are strewn across the orchard, and it is up to my sister and me to grab time off work and dismantle it in a few days -- even deciding on our mother's behalf what she takes with her to her new "home."


As Sasha and I embark on building our own children's haven, I can't help looking at little Vita and Benedict and wondering about the day that they'll have to fly back from corners of the world, snatch a few sentimental items and bring in house clearance for the rest.