Sheena sitting at her kitchen table. She’s the mother of an eighteen-year-old son, and her mother, Barbara, is in a care home. Sheena thinks of a dream she had last night of heading for safety, into the sky, in a rocket ship with her mother. Feeling happy for the first time in weeks. On waking she feels only guilt.
While washing up, Sheena talks about how Barbara didn’t like the home at first. Even Sheena thought the other residents were “further along the line’. Her mother raged and would not settle. One care worker, Marella, an eastern European, was great. Sheena is mortified that Barbara used foul language and called her names… “big ugly Polak”, but amazingly Marella just continued to be good to her.
Back at the kitchen table, Sheena remembers how she cried and said to her husband Jim that they must take Barbara home. Jim comforted her that they couldn’t give her that level of care. Sheena still feels guilty. Barbara used to plead with her…. “Please don’t leave me here.”
Sheena remembers how Barbara sang to her and her brother Paul. He was always the favourite, but now never visits, even though he’s full of opinions about what should be done. Sheena tried to visit the home with gloves and masks from a builder friend. They wouldn’t let her in, and Sheena refused to leave the grounds. She made a scene and says how mad she was with having “government guidance” quoted at her. Barbara is at risk because of lack of testing. She talks about her anger at losing every single precious day of the rest of Barbara’s life.
Sheena talks about a resident who was sick, and his wife and daughter had to talk to him through a window standing in the car park. When Sheena’s grandmother, Barbara’s mother, was dying, Barbara was beside her for days, brushing her hair and singing to her. Why was there a phone call from the home asking for permission to put a “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation Order”? Sheena panics. She can’t leave Barbara there. She can’t be the wife and daughter in the car park, behind a window.
Barbara got confused on a Skype call and thought Sheena was a TV person. She’s getting worse, locked up in her room every day. Connecting with her is getting more difficult. Even singing is no good. There’s no response. Nothing. Just a bewildered frightened look. Sheena wants to leave her job and take Barbara home. Jim said he’d support any decision. So, Sheena cried, and Mikey hugged her. Sheena knows she is not alone, and Barbara should not be alone either.
After a glimpse of Barbara through the window of the care home, we see Sheena at the end, in candlelight, in her garden at night. She remembers how much she loved looking at a clear night sky with her mother, who taught her songs of her own mother, and the names of the stars, and she wishes they were together. She imagines that her mother is up in the stars, in a rocket, waiting for her.
Sheena is played by Maureen Carr. Maureen has been acting for 40 years and has worked in theatres all over the UK. Her most recent theatre work has been with Stellar Quines and the Citizens Theatre in a play called Fibres by Frances Poet. She is currently appearing in a CBBC show called Molly and Mack playing Moira. Her recent radio credits is in Fags, Mags and Bags for radio 4. She is also the artistic director of Witsherface production company who have been creating various productions on radio and social media during lockdown.
Dementia hasn’t touched me personally as my parents died very young. But I have watched friends having to cope with this terrible disease, and it’s heart breaking. Being part of this project has been special and I hope it helps more people understand what families have had to go through. Not being able to physically see or touch their loved ones during the pandemic, especially when their loved ones don’t understand why. I have a twin brother with cerebral palsy in residential care. I know what it feels like being unable to see the person you love and give them a cuddle. Also it is very important for people to hear how much it affects the staff who work there. Nothing is ever black and white. As well as getting an important message across, making the film with my daughter, sons and husband has been a huge privilege.
If any issues arise for you on looking at this film, you may find some of the resources here helpful, or contact the Trust on firstname.lastname@example.org. The character Barbara has dementia, so some dementia resources are included here. Sheena as her daughter faced a terrible dilemma about whether she was doing the right thing in allowing her mother to remain in the home. Although Take Me With You is a work of fiction, every plot line in the story is lifted from a published news story or the personal experience of the writers and actors.
Some of the news stories are listed here, but the Trust is happy to be asked about any parts of the story that anyone feels present and exaggerated, unfair or untrue picture.
NDCAN exists to make the voice of carers heard is the information page of a Scottish Carers organisation
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging and stressful, but with the right support it can be rewarding and often satisfying is the NHS site about looking after someone with dementia
Find support near you is advice from Alzheimer Scotland
Care Homes Guide is a free guide from Which about choosing a care home
Choosing a Care Home is a book that outlines alternatives to care homes and advises how to make a choice if necessary
Coronavirus fears leading families to remove relatives from UK care homes. This article from the early stages of the pandemic engages with the dilemmas that people had
Reintroduction of care home visits. This piece from Scottish Care near the end of June was advising about phased reintroduction of visiting