One of the most heartbreaking things you can ever face in life is the reality of knowing a loved one had Dementia, and is no longer the person you know and love. Trying to cope with the fact, and choosing the right thing to do for both you, your wider family, and the person living with the dementia is difficult, with the care and safety of the sufferer being paramount, but trying to balance that with the feeling of guilt if you have to admit you can’t cope alone is hard and painful. I speak from experience.
It is now 18 years since my grandmother died at the age of 68. She had an aggressive form of alzheimers that took just over three years to kill her brain, and eventually kill her. We had not been aware initially just her advanced her disease was as my grandad had covered and protected her, but my grandad died in 2006 and we were suddenly faced with a situation of a women who could no longer care for herself, whose reality was often steeped in the past, but whose present was very difficult. Bills were unopened and stuffed into drawers, she would leave the house in the middle of the night to look for my grandad – my husband once found her sitting in a bus stop at 4am waiting for a bus ‘to work’ (she’d been retired for years.). Her house became dirty, and she couldn’t settle – she would pace, holding her handbag and looking out the window for who knows what. It was distressing – and made all the more distressing because we had no space for nan to live with us. Nan had to go into a care home for her own safety and to receive proper care. But in 1998 there was little choice or information about choosing the right home, and this was a very difficult time for all the family.
May sees Dementia Awareness Week, a sign of how far we have come in the understanding and treatment of Dementia. Care homes provider Barchester Healthcare have a range of different types of care home around the country, some which actually specialise in Dementia care, and their website is an invaluable source of information about what you should look for when trying to choose a home for a loved one – this just wasn’t available when my nan was suffering. They recommend visits and even trial stays before you commit to an establishment, something that I think could give you some peace of mind at this most horrible of times. Their dementia care homes guide is very useful, it comes complete with questions to ask and checklists.
Dementia is a condition that cannot be cured, but it is comforting to know there are now places that sufferers can live in comfort and safety, with their families safe in the knowledge that their loved one can experience a good level of care.