Caring for a Loved One with Dementia
As many of you will know I care for my elderly grandmother who has vascular dementia which is a horrible disease with no cure. At the time of writing this post my gran is still living in her own home, although the talk between myself and the professionals involved with her care is turning more and more to care home.
I've had so many people say why don't I just put gran into a care home as it would be the best place for her and take the pressure off me. Now I know these comments are made from a good place and I don't deny that gran would benefit from the extra care and that the stress on my plate would be decreased. But it's not that simple, one she will not consent to going into a care home as in her own words "you're treated like cattle". Two although I was given power of attorney by gran before her dementia it sometimes isn't worth the paper it is written on as I am finding out, although it has been a life saver in other respects as it meant that when my gran was transferred to a new GP practice when her old one closed down the GP was able to discuss grans medical needs and care with me. Lastly, I cannot in good conscious put my gran somewhere that will make her unhappy, although I know care homes are good places as my other grandmother was in a couple in the final few years of her life, the type of person my gran is she would not cope with being in a care home.
I am fully aware that there may come a time that there will not be a choice about whether my gran goes into a care home. But whilst I can keep her in her home where she is happy I will do so, even if it means that it causes me a deal of stress for the time being I know full well it won't be forever.
Although it has been just over 6 months since my gran was diagnosed with dementia looking back there were signs before hand. Such as forgetting she had turned the hob on at the cooker and she burnt her dinner, forgetting what she had gone into a room to do, losing interest in the conversation we were having half way through. At the time they were just put down to a bit of old age after all my gran is now in her late 90's and I've walked into a room and forgotten what I was away to do and I'm only in my 30's. But I will admit even then there was something niggling at me that something wasn't right but I thought I was being paranoid and over protective of my gran, as I'm the only family member that has anything to do with my gran. I did broach the subject to see if she thought she was doing okay and she always told me she was and that I shouldn't worry. With me living an hour away I decided to trust my gran.
But in August last year I could no longer deny my gut instinct that something wasn't right when she phoned me to tell me my grandpa was missing. My heart just stopped when she said this as my grandpa had died 7 years previously. I managed to remind her that grandpa was dead and after that she was okay. This happened on a Friday night so on the Monday morning I phoned my grans GP practice and started getting them to investigate. Unfortunately grans decline with the dementia happened quite quickly and the doctors, social services and I were playing catch up. Things seemed to hit the worse part when I got a phone call from the police one night telling me they were with gran as she had reported my grandpa missing. Thankfully the police were very understanding when I explained the situation. Now if gran reports grandpa missing they just phone me and don't actually send any officers out unless is it deemed utterly necessary. Touch wood it has been about 6 weeks since I last had to speak to the police in regards to gran, and as much as I would love to say that I won't have to again I suspect that I will.
With gran not only can she not remember her husband or sons dying she also cannot remember one of her brothers dying also. Obviously it is not nice for me to have to continuously tell her that they are dead but there is nothing else I can do.
This disease is utterly horrible as it is slowly robbing my of the gran that I love and I have now had to make the decision not to take my daughter through with me anymore. This was a hard decision for me to make but one that is for the best for my daughter. As the last time she seen my gran she accidentally knocked over a glass and it broke and although I didn't see the look on my grans face as I was concentrating on making sure my daughter didn't get hurt on the broken glass my partner seen my gran and he said the reason he stepped between my gran and daughter was apparently because my grans face changed and he genuinely thought my gran was going to hit my daughter. The time before this my gran was slagging my ex-husband off and although I don't care if she does this in front of me I won't have it done in front of our daughter as he is a good dad to her. So although my daughter misses seeing her great-gran I will not risk my daughters safety. Especially as my gran has verbally threatened me with violence and given that before the dementia she had a reputation for being someone who would fight with her own shadow. I am actually fully expecting for the verbal threat to turn into action one day and I don't want my daughter witnessing her mum being attacked.
Although this post has mostly been about the negative side of dementia and how horrible it is, there are times where I still see my gran and there are moments in conversation I can almost forget about the fact my gran has dementia. And she is forever telling me how grateful she is for me and all that I do for her.
I've used this post to write about my experience of my gran having dementia. If you want to know more about vascular dementia, then follow this link over to the British Heart Foundation website for more information.
If you care for a loved one with dementia or any illness/disease you're doing a fantastic job.
If you know someone who is a career maybe don't try and tell them what is best for their loved one no matter how well meaning it can be upsetting. But offer them a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, sometimes that's what is needed more than anything.