Caring for a parent with dementia

Watching a parent suffer with dementia is one of the hardest things you will ever do

My own father changed gradually before my eyes from a bright, energetic, intelligent man to someone whom I barely recognised and who often did not recognise me

It was a process over the course of eight years which often frightened him and was very upsetting and stressful for those closest to him

Dementia begins slowly. At first, it’s just forgetting the odd name or face, something we all do at times

Then it becomes more obvious, but every person’s dementia follows its own course

For my father, it was almost a wave-like pattern, when he might have days when he was completely lucid and others   when he was living forty years previously

I had conversations with him when he told me he had just been on a train with his brother (who had been dead ten years by then) and others when he was in an entirely different country

I would keep up the conversation as if I was living in the same era as well. It seemed a shame to contradict him and in particular, I did not want to have to tell him again that certain siblings were dead

For him, it would have been bereavement all over again

At other times, he was conscious that things weren’t quite right

He would ask me if there was something wrong with his head and would tell me that things were getting muddled up. Again, I would reassure him that he was alright, as given there is no cure for dementia currently, there was little point in telling him something was wrong, as it would only have worried him more

We often communicated by looking through photographs and reminiscing that way, which was often more productive than talking about the present, which was elusive to him

At one time, during a hospital stay, he got very angry and was shouting at the family and the nurses

He even tried to smack my leg as I walked past him, something he had never even done when I was a child, but he was very weak by then and it was more of a tap than a blow

My father suffered from vascular dementia, so his mental deterioration was exacerbated by his physical decline. For the last two years of his life, he could not walk and was doubly incontinent, meaning he needed fulltime care

My mother, eighteen years his junior, took on this role until we had to get help for her, as he needed two people to use the hoist to move him from chair  to commode to bed

The stress on my mother was immense, living with it twenty four hours a day and watching the love of her life for the past 50 years suffer

It was also very stressful for me and my two sisters, as we all had children under the age of six and were working as well

My parents were living in Manchester and the three of us lived in London, so we were finding it even harder to help. Eventually, we persuaded my parents to move to London, so we could be more hands-on

Whilst this was a help to my mother in many ways and it meant that both of them could see their grandchildren more often, it was also an enormous wrench for my mother to leave her friends behind and start again in London

Twelve years later, she is doing very well, but she still misses my father very much

The last year of my father’s life, he was suffering tremendously and when he died, we all thought we would only remember him as he was when he died. That does fade, however, and after a while, we do remember him as he was before he suffered from this slow, painful condition

If you know someone with dementia, please be patient and take your time with them

If you know someone caring for someone with dementia, please be patient and kind to them as well

It is a condition which requires immense patience, love and support and if you can help someone out, even for a short time, it will be always very much appreciated

We offer an expert care advice service

Grace Consulting provides affordable fee-based independent advice to help you choose the best care option to suit you and your relative’s needs and wishes. Our Care Advisers provide the knowledge and support you need to make the right decision for you and your family. myageingparent.com is partnering with Grace Consulting, the UK’s leading provider of personalised independent care advice, who, for over 40 years, has specialised in finding the best possible care for older people. Please note this is not an Age Concern or Age UK service.

Call now on 01483 209626 to get the help and advice you need at our preferential discounted rates

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