Saturday, 30 April 2016

My family experience with Dementia

This is my nan - Annie-Doris.

I've written about her before...she passed away just a few weeks after my first son was born, and it's always played on my mind that she never got to meet him.

I've been thinking about her a lot lately, I'm not sure why...perhaps because the anniversary of her death is coming up or perhaps because it would have been her birthday next month...but whatever the reason, I've had her on my mind.

She was such a lovely grandmother...a lovely lady all around in fact, everybody who knew her loved her...but she really was the best Nan. Admittedly I hadn't ever really known any other - my maternal grandmother passed away when I was very young and unfortunately I don't have any memory of her - in fact I lost all of my grandparents before I turned 10, but my Nan was always there and she made me feel as though it didn't matter that there weren't any others - she was enough.

She did all of the usual things that nans do with their grand daughters - she took me on days out, she told me all about her favourite books and let me borrow them (she got me into lots of authors that I still love!), and she even taught me how to knit - she tried her very best to teach me how to dance the charleston too but I could never quite pick that up, though I'll never get the image of my old Nan shimmying away in her hall trying to teach me out of my mind!

The main thing I remember about my Nan is that she adored children - I used to teach a drama class locally and every week she'd come and watch, and she would cry listening to the children sing their little songs every week - she loved being around them, and that's why it makes me so sad that she never got to meet mine - I know she would have loved them so much.

When I think about Nan, it feels as though she's been gone for so much longer than just 3 years...and in a way, she kind of has. You see, she suffered with dementia in the years before she passed started slowly, at first I remember thinking she was just a bit was just her age.

But it soon became apparent that it was more than that - and within a year or so, she could no longer remember my name. 

I'll never forget the first time I realised it had happened - I was chatting to her at my nieces christening for a good 10 minutes thinking everything was fine, before she finally said "What's your name dear? I recognise your face...I know that I know you...but I can't remember who you are".

I remember getting a massive lump in my throat as I said "Nan it's me, Hayley....I'm your granddaughter" - she laughed and said "Oh of course, silly me!" but I could tell from the look in her eyes that she was bluffing, she didn't remember me at all....I was heart broken and I'll be honest...from that point, I felt a little bit scared every time I saw her.

I wanted to see her, and be around her...but I found it devastating every time she asked who I was and I was always so scared of her asking.

Dementia is a terrible illness for everybody involved, but it can be especially hard on the family of the sufferer and I know that my Dad and his siblings really struggled to accept it - on top of the devastating effects of the illness itself, it comes with a whole host of practical concerns too - where will the person live now? Who will look after them? What is the right thing to do for them?

For a while my nan lived with her children, splitting her time between them all, but eventually her condition became too bad and she needed round the clock care - and so it was time to choose a care home.

Barchester care homes have put together a guide to choosing the right care home for your loved ones as this can be such a difficult thing to do - you can see the guide by CLICKING HERE

It was the right thing to do for my nan and her family, and her last year or so was spent there happily - with her children and grandchildren visiting her most days - sometimes I forget that she's not around anymore and I imagine that she's still there at the home - I wish I'd been able to go and visit her with my little ones.

But it is what it is, and I just have to tell myself that she has seen them  - that she's watching from somewhere.

I was always told that robins were a sign of a loved one being around you in spirit, and as silly as it might sound - on every day out that we have since she passed - days at the zoo and the park etc -  a little robin always comes and lands by us - and I always think it's my nan coming with us, stopping by to say hello. 

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