The Chairman’s charity this year at the Council is Alzheimers Society. The comms team put out a message asking for blog entries about experiences of people with Alzheimers. Although grandmother didn’t suffer with Alzheimers, it was dementia and there are a lot of similarities. Here’s my blog entry:
Having a grandmother with dementia is pretty heartbreaking.
One of the things said in the eulogy at her funeral was that she was never happier than when at home, cooking and being a housewife.
About 2 years after my granddad died, she started giving up. She wouldn’t cook or tidy the house. We all thought it was just laziness – she had no-one to look after. It only became apparent after she moved into Abbotsbury that perhaps she had forgotten. She didn’t know how to do those things any more. Dementia took away the things she loved to do the most.
In her latter years she was pretty terrible to everyone, but the hardest thing was seeing how she treated my mum. She was rude and made her feel guilty about everything. My mum went to see her 4 days a week and dealt with any problems that arose, trimmed her nails, tidied her room and bought her snacks, magazines and, importantly, a Chronicle every Friday. Even if my mum had been with her 24/7 it wouldn’t have been enough.
Sometimes, if you were lucky, you might get a smile out of her. A laugh was even rarer.
My grandmother only died in April this year so at the moment it’s difficult to separate the dementia and how she used to be, before dementia. My main memory is of her throwing a shoe at my mum in anger and shouting, but looking back I guess that was the dementia fully kicking in. People think of dementia as ‘forgetfulness’ but there are so many other parts to it. In my experience, the forgetfulness is the easiest part to deal with. I found the un-censored anger the hardest.
One particular memory I have of her in her later life is the day that Abbotsbury had a fundraising fete and she just wouldn’t get out of bed for my mum, uncle or the carers. I went into her room and asked her if she was getting up. Ten minutes later we were in the dining room and she was stuffing a chocolate cupcake that I had bought her into her mouth as quickly as humanly possible, ending up with chocolate all around her mouth. It was safe to say she had enjoyed it. And I got a smile.
It was only after she died that we realised how advanced her dementia was and that mum had done incredibly well caring for her for the 8 years that my grandmother lived at home by herself. Our family will always be grateful to the carers in Abbotsbury that helped my grandmother have some kind of quality of life with dementia. They also importantly helped the family around my grandmother. They helped re-assure my mum that my grandmother was a fairly typical dementia sufferer. They also provided light relief on difficult days and support when my mum and other family and friends needed it. In her final days, they made sure she was comfortable. That was all we could have asked for.