Every day at 5.30 pm for the last 6 years my friend Chris brings round a dinner she’s prepared for her 86 year old Mum who has Dementia. She doesn’t complain but suffers migraines and a bad back holding everything together, being the loyal, dependable one who lives two roads away from her Mum. Her 2 brothers help when she remembers to ask them to cook a lunch, or take their Mum out on a Sunday, and her sister has moved back from France and can help looking after their Mum more now.
She looks pale, she looks tired and she’s stepped down from her job as a Deputy Head as the stress was beginning to get too much. Every week she can see a small decline in her once very confident, assertive and quite opinionated mother, and they are determined to keep her at home in the place where she has happy memories of a long, happy marriage and a beautiful garden near her friend Elsie.
It’s getting harder.
My friend Tom watched as his mother slowly slipped into Dementia and didn’t recognise “The Handsome Man” in the kitchen as her son.
My Dad found he slowly couldn’t find the words to describe the Italian buildings that he once loved to talk about as an architect and wasn’t sure about what happened at bedtime and what the order was for his past 79 year routine.
My children’s Grandma has senile dementia and it has been sad to see this once incredibly active, kind and weekly golfing woman become a shadow of her former self. When I found out I Googled “Dementia” as my former husband had his head rather firmly in the sand about what was happening and I wanted to be informed about what was going to happen and how I could prepare my teenage children for the changes.
Dementia affects around 820,000 people in the UK and is expected to increase more than threefold in the next 50 years, as we have an ageing population, so many more people will be affected. A quarter of all hospital beds are taken with a person who has dementia, so it is vitally important that we make sure we get looking after our loved ones right and prepare our whole families for the changes coming – it need not be a life sentence overflowing with loss, tears and despair, but it needs talking about and a change in all our mindsets.
This week a truly beautiful book landed on my front porch written with such care, such humour, such perception and such insight that it took my breath away.
It was written by Ian Donaghy and is called, “Dear Dementia” because as Ian says Dementia has, for too long, been the elephant in the room, too big to ignore, yet we still hoover round it. Dementia is an uninvited guest FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY and this beautiful little book with its gorgeous sepia photos and small thought provoking quotes is a must have book that you simply enjoy looking at and then pass forward to your friends, your family, a care home, a hospital, your GP or your Priest or Vicar.
It has over 100 pictures, just a few words and is bursting with emotion.
Diagnosing dementia is often difficult, particularly in the early stages. So if you are worried about a loved ones memory go along with them to visit their GP so you can face the diagnosis together.
Here’s my article on Dementia “What’s Wrong With Granny? – Talking To Your Children About Dementia