BEJAY BROWNE meets the author of a new ebook detailing his struggle with his ailing mother and the treatment they received
Caring for a sick relative can be an arduous, thankless task. After the death of his mother, local resident Gavin Jones has written a book detailing his journey and the problems he encountered with the Cyprus health service on his way/
Renowned Cypriot artist Thraki Rossidou-Jones died in July 2007 aged 87. Her family has since accused Paphos General Hospital of medical negligence regarding her death. Her son, Jones, believes the system “had a major hand” in what went wrong and that other similar cases must be prevented.
In fact he has just published an ebook about their experiences. “The title of my book says it all – ‘A Mental State’ – people can read into it whatever they want to. The subject matter is primarily about my mother’s illness.”
But the first-time author is quick to assure the book isn’t shocking and disturbing in its entirety, but contains moments of lightness to contrast with the more horrifying moments of his very personal story. “This book has a lot of horrific moments, but there are also a lot of funny bits, observations of Cypriot life.”
Jones’ mother was Cypriot and his father British. Now 65, he has lived in Paphos for the last six years, moving to the island with his wife to care for his mother after she developed dementia. “My mother was desperate, she had advanced senile dementia and so we came back to take care of her. I am an only child and my father died in 1992.Thats when the book starts.”
Dementia has a set of signs and symptoms and can affect areas such as memory, attention, language and problem solving. Sufferers may also become disorientated as the disease progresses. They may not know who or where they are, what time or those closest to them.
Jones feels dementia is not as talked about a disease as cancer, especially on the island and the book could do something to alter that.
“I was driven to write this book, I felt that I had too. My mother died in July 2007 and I started writing about a year afterwards; it took me about three months to write, it was very quick – cathartic is a very good description of how I felt when writing and afterwards – it really did help.
“This is a universal book, the events in the book happened in Cyprus but the problem is worldwide. For example, there have been a number of TV programmes and documentaries in the UK about people in mental health institutions and care homes who are being treated terribly; there are some pretty horrendous stories and exposures.”
And in his book Jones catalogs his mother’s horrific death, loss of dignity and how the medical staff behaved, as well as the 14 inquest hearings that followed over a ten month period. “There was a ten month delay for the verdict, which I believe is an EU record for an inquest,” he said.
The family has since launched a lawsuit against the state for medical negligence concerning the artist’s death in November 2009 – Jones says that the trial date has been postponed on numerous occasions.
He said: “I hope my book will be able to help here. People with differences are looked upon with a great stigma in Cyprus. You rarely see people with Downs’ syndrome, using crutches, or in wheelchairs in public. They are mostly kept in their houses. It is changing, but like all these prejudices, it takes time to work out of the system.”
After trying to get the book published through established channels Jones and contributor Dr Alan Waring decided to self publish – it is now available as an ebook through Amazon and other e reader platforms.
He added: “I think the book will really help people. It will be particularly poignant for those who’ve been through this experience, those who are going through it or those who might conceivably go through it. This book will show them that they are not alone.
“When you’re going through this experience, you feel the isolation of the person you’re looking after, you feel isolated yourself, because people do actually shun you.”
And, his mother tended to be aggressive. “It’s hard to cope with. They (the sufferers) accuse you of things, this is standard though. You can’t learn how to deal with this on a management course. Until it hits you, you don’t realise what its like. People have no idea.”
He said that people must understand that they aren’t isolated as carers, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are going through this experience.
Despite his experience Jones went through with his mother, he says he’s not frightened of getting dementia. “I’m not scared of death; one in four of us are affected by this disease.”
The book is available in e-book format on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com