Essential (well not really) tremor #blogjune

Sarah. Mum. Me Mother's Day May 2015

Sarah. Mum. Me
Mother’s Day May 2015

My mum has uncontrolled shaking of the hands and face. The diagnosis is …an essential tremor.

I find the word essential in this phrase absolutely non-essential as it slowly inhibits her in ways.

For my mum has had this tremor for a number of years now…at least 10.

The tremor gets worse when she is moving, so eating, drinking and writing are becoming more impossible. In fact she cannot write any more – my dad now writes her cheques (yes she is the only person I know who does still use cheques, which I cannot grumble about as I am the recipient of some of these cheques).

It is not Parkinson’s Disease. There is no cure. It can be hereditary. In fact mum remembers that one of her grandmothers had it.

Mum has not had caffeine or alcohol in ten years or so. Caffeine and alcohol can worsen tremors. She is on strong tranquilizers that the specialists hope can lessen the tremor. But the tremor gets worse and the dosage of tranquilizers increases.

Mum has been drinking her endless mugs of decaffeinated tea through a straw for years now. We are all used to it. Certain cafe owners in Bowral where they live are used to it too and provide straws with her order. But it is getting worse as she is struggling with lifting hot drinks – often spilling them. So we pass the drinks, make sure that she can reach her straw and ask her not to pick up the mug.

Eating too is getting harder. She takes a long time to eat. It’s noisy. She often uses a spoon. Mum doesn’t like eating out so much now, so she is more discerning in picking where she eats, in a table out of sight, and where she has time to eat. And don’t give her her meal on a flat piece of slate or a plank. She needs a lip in her dish or plate. Something to catch the food with her spoon. Big pieces of food can be better as a lever. A thick porridge is better than a thin soup. She is getting to know all the tricks. We are getting better at offering help in the gentlest but caring of ways. We are getting better at intervening in a quiet but firm manner…”here mum I’ll cut that part up and then you’ll be set...” And she is getting better at accepting our help. We don’t rush meals.

She still cooks. She likes to cook, to plan and prepare meals. But she no longer takes the cooked meal out of the oven. She has finally stopped picking up saucepans of hot food. So she adjusts. Dad helps more. We point out that getting a third degree burn just because you are determined to take the boiling pot of potatoes off the stove is not going to help anyone!

Mum takes it all in reasonable humour. You occasionally her her mutter “oh stop it” as she talks to her hands to make them do something without shaking…  It is worsening. She is on a heap of sedatives. She is now being considered for brain surgery – Thalamic deep brain stimulation. So begins another round of trips to specialists and surgeons who will ascertain whether she is a likely candidate. She is 82 and a little frail. A little unsteady on her feet.

We are all getting better at using strategies to live with this most essential of tremors.

Oh, and apparently the essential in essential tremor is …” the term ‘essential’ means that there is no associated disease that causes the tremor”.

Not my idea of essential at all!

The news yesterday from a visit to the neurologist is that those with essential tremors have a greater life expectancy by 10 years or so. Know one knows why. But that’s what the research shows. Mum and dad both thrilled by this!

This watching your parents age, indeed aging itself is hard. But we learn and we cope and we love through it all.

And I’m still a bit cranky about the use of the word ‘essential’ in all of this. Have you noticed?


Yes- we tried going down the Google/Liftware spoon path…but poor mum’s tremor is beyond this spoon 😦

One Response to “Essential (well not really) tremor #blogjune”

  1. Seems to be the opposite of essential!

    My mum is 60 this year and sometimes I forget she’s getting older because she looks so good! Thinking about her getting older makes my chest tight.

    Beautiful post x

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