When one memory fails, another is opened
Dementia Alzheimer’s can be a cruel disease. From my experience as a carer, they can be warning signs or BAM it can hit and turn everything upside down. Once thing was clear my charges would turn violent when frustrated. It was this experience I put into place with family members and neighbours when this awful disease took hold. As one memory faded, I would learn more from the next memory that opened, learning new memories and hearing new stories.
Warning signs can be focusing on a certain time in her period, repetition some confusion remembering simple things like the days of the week. There are no defined tests for Dementia but the Daily Mail in its Article of the 23 March 2015, claimed six questions could help determine whether you were suffering from Dementia
What year is it?
What month is it?
Without looking at a clock, what time is it to the nearest hour?
Count back from 20 to 1
Say the months of the year in reverse order
Tell me the name and address I gave you earlier
At this point I should say if you are worried about your memory or someone else’s, you should talk to your GP. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help your memory including wearing a watch or writing to do lists, more memory assisting tips can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society Website. You can then consider your options and the relevant care that may or may not be needed.
When a person starts forgetting who you are, where they live or is convinced that someone has stolen the purse, please remember patience and compassion. What the Dementia patient is experiencing is very real to them. That is what they are feeling and they believe is happening. Losing your temper and shouting at them telling them ‘how ridiculous’ they are being will not be productive but will lead to everyone feeling frustrated. This is when the Dementia patient will often lash out. I found talking to them in the moment, being felt like they were special and loved was more productive. It is hard when a person changes but everyone needs to adapt to be supportive through the various stages of the disease.
On one occasion I saw my charges at 9pm and was due in again by 6am the next day. When I left both my charge and its partner were in good spirits and a good frame of mine, coherent and mobile. The next morning, I was unable to gain entry. I could see the partner on the floor and unable to see my charge, through the letter box. I called for the ambulance and the company I worked for to explain the situation. The milkman helped me gain access so we could check on the well-being of both. To my horror and mortification at the time, the company told me that I was only to deal with charge. This was a fellow human being they were dismissing, just because his care was not on their books. This was not the only time I heard this kind of statement from them and it was re-quoted regarding many of my charges all sorts of abilities or illnesses. For some I was the only company they had in a day and so they just wanted to talk. it just to pull on my heart every time I had to cut an appointment short. Time was money, the people I cared for were money.
However, I could do things differently when it came to my own family members and a close neighbor. I could give them the care they needed and the time. When a knock at the door came every five minutes one evening from an elderly neighbor, I realised the early stages of dementia may be on-coming and when I offered to come round and help her, the smile was enough of a thanks. It became clear that my neighbor was struggling and so I offered to give her daughter a call to I could check the answer to her question. This was the start of many doorbell moments throughout the evening and calls with the daughter to help and assist as they were a good ninety minutes from their mother. It soon became evident that greater care would be needed and some of the neighbors were seeking assistance away from the family. Unfortunately, I ended up moving due to my own personal circumstances and so do not know the rest of the story. I do often wonder if my neighbor actually got the help and support they were struggling to obtain.
My family member was such a strong, independent WWII survivor and luckily the warning signs were the repeated discussion over their relocation after peace was declared. It was hard to watch this disease take hold of such a key member of my family. It was heard on their children to watch to. What was heartwarming to see was their children pulling together to ensure they received the best care. Frustrations were kept to a minimum even if it meant we were a childhood, friend, their Dad or a Sister. They were treated with the respect they deserved as a WWII Survivor, a parent and a grandparent and most importantly as a human being.
To this day it is Dementia couples and stories on Comic Relief that just cause meet sob. As does the film ‘The Notebook’ and why I still have not been able to watch the awarding winning ‘Still Alice’. Although I do have the book ready to be read, along with ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ and ‘The Memory Book’. I so want read them but I know I will cry.
To find out more about Dementia, the signs and diagnosis, the treatments and care please visit the Alzheimer’s Society. Maybe even take part in an event to help them raise money for research, care and carers. Looking after a person with Dementia is a full-time job and is hard on the carers too. Most importantly treat the person with Dementia with respect, compassion, tolerance and patience and frustrations and violent outburst may be kept to a minimum. It always amazed me how when a memory faded, a gentle touch would open the door to a whole new one, maybe one that had never been heard before. A new chapter in a part-told story.
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