With Dementia Awareness Week coming up from the 15th until the 21st of May I wanted to write something this year to help highlight this subject which has affected my family a great deal and I hope to help raise awareness and help others through my post as we now have 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia. Some of my readers will be aware that I lost my gran last year at the age of 91. During the last few years of her life my gran had begun to lose her memory hardly surprising at that age but still not a pleasant experience for anyone. Only months before she died she was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the gradual loss of memory and communication skills, where symptoms are severe it can affect people’s ability to perform daily activities.
For years I had been visiting my gran with my little ones and watched as she slowly deteriorated. She seemed to be stuck in a loop with questions for example and during the time I would visit would ask me the same questions over and over numerous times. Of course all you can do is be patient as the same questions are being asked unintentionally. After a visit I may have been asked if I wanted something to eat or drink maybe 10/12 times or more depending on the duration of the visit (and that was just one of the questions in the loop). It was heartbreaking to see her struggling especially nearer to the end, she wouldn’t recognise that she was at home on some occasions and would ask to go home. She thought my mum was her dead sister, the confusion was clearly very upsetting and annoying for her as she would seem to slip in and out of remembering certain things. Caring for her was not easy as she had always been a very strong willed person and to feel so helpless annoyed her immensely and she would take out her frustrations out on those around her. I tried to help where I could but my mum and aunt took on the brunt of the work. My mum would stay there overnight, coming home briefly if she had someone to help the following day and then going back to do the night watch again. It took its toll on all involved. My mum was physically exhausted my gran at the very late stages even got verbally abusive and would yell at all around her through her frustration and feeling of utter helplessness. Having experienced this firsthand, I feel that my gran may have been better off in a dementia care home with people that were better equipped to look after her alongside the family members being there as much as each could be. I felt for my mum who has problems with her back trying to move my gran to dress her bed sores that she had developed after a stint in hospital or trying to help her go to the toilet. By this stage my gran could barely walk and at 5ft 5inches tall (slim framed) was extremely heavy and difficult to support especially as my mum was shorter than her. Some of the older generation family members were not too keen on taking my gran anywhere to be looked after which was a shame as I feel all suffered more than necessary because of this decision. In the end I convinced them to get help from someone with experience in supporting my gran in her own home but due to the layout of the house it wasn’t as easy for them as it would have been in a home.
I appreciate that deciding to take an elderly family member to a care home is a hard one but sometimes it can be in their interest to do so. But then equally as hard a decision is deciding where one might take their loved on to be cared for. Ideally you need a care home accredited by companies that work to help those with dementia. The staff need to be well trained, the facilities need to be suitable to cope with the requirements of the patient such as easy bathroom access, the type of care available needs to be suitable with a personal approach from people experienced in the care of dementia patients so that the care is similar to what patients would receive at home with patients feeling safe in their surroundings. There are so many things that need to be considered when choosing a dementia care home. One point that struck me with these homes is that the staff are very happy in their job. This company won a top employer award in 2015 and was featured in the Sunday Times in 2014 as a Top 25 company to work for. It makes sense that if staff are happy then the residents will also be happy. I hope that this is helpful to anyone going through what my family went through last year, after all if we could all cope having a loved one at home that was ill we would but unfortunately it isn’t the case with many and this looks like a great alternative.