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My mum has Alzheimer’s. How do I stop her ‘helping’ around the house? | Life and style

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My husband and I and our two children (aged six and two) recently moved into a bigger house so my mum could come and live with us. She is in her late 70s and was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

We work part-time and share childcare, and agreed to have my mum with us so we could provide a stable home as she was no longer able to live alone. I am keen that, where possible, I am not her carer – we have two assistants who help with personal care, medication and medical appointments.

However, we often end up “caring” for her in terms of cooking, washing, taking her on days out and so on. One thing we struggle with is when we ask her what she needs or would like, and she turns the question round to ask what we need, or how she can help us. In reality, there is little she can do, though we are happy for her to wash up or hang laundry, even if this takes a long time and ends up incomplete.

When she persistently tries to offer help, it becomes a flashpoint for my husband and me, and makes what should be a simple interaction stressful and upsetting.

This behaviour predates the dementia – she was a wonderful and kind single mother who has always gone out of her way to look after others. We want so much to look after her, but it would be so much easier for us if she could accept the help with a simple “thank you!”.

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It’s wonderful that you’ve brought your mother to live with you, but you’ve taken on a lot, with work and young children. I wonder if you’ve let yourself acknowledge that?

I used to think looking after older relatives was about the physical impact, but the psychological one is far greater. There’s also a shift between you and your mum, with you taking on a more parental role. And that’s really hard: for both, there’s often an unspoken loss at its core. I suspect this has become a flashpoint not because of what she says, but because of what it triggers in you. I wonder if next time she says it, you could consider how it really makes you feel? Because I do think there’s an unvoiced emotion here.

I contacted Julie Green of Dementia UK: “You’ve done a fantastic thing, but you are a carer for your mum and a mother. When there’s no time for self, that’s when people can get resentful.” She also pointed out something vital, which is that “every one of us has the need for meaningful activities; we need to feel valued, [and] that we are here for a reason.”

Your mum wanting to help is what defines her, and she may be suffering a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. You may not be able to stop her saying it, but you may be able to handle it differently. Green suggested looking at chores and writing a list so your mum could tick off what she’s done, and you could also give her feedback. This will save not only time in the long run, but frustration, too. Then when your mum asks how she can help, you can say, “You’ve already done this. How about doing something for fun?”. Here Green suggests looking at what your mum likes to do: knitting, singing, anything she usually enjoys.

A vital piece of advice I want to pass on is not to get caught up in what is or isn’t happening, but concentrate on your mum’s feelings. Your mum may forget things, but facts don’t matter here; feelings, however, do. How you make someone feel is crucial.

But how you feel is also really important, so please get support. If things get too much, please don’t feel bad about looking into short-term (a few days’) respite care at a local residential home for your mum.

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Conversations With Annalisa Barbieri, a new podcast series, is available here.

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year

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In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart



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17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus

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Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer

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Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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