Dementia is a cruel, evil disease that robs an individual of their self respect and dignity and causes immense pain to their relatives.
Watching someone you love fall under the spell of this disease is incredibly difficult to deal with. The person you once knew as articulate, independent, outgoing, dependable and intelligent is gone and replaced with an extremely badly behaved child that never learns or grows up. It is truly heart breaking to watch someone go through it and know there is nothing you can do to cure it.
However, early diagnosis can help, as systems can be put in place which will greatly assist the sufferer and their family. I always recommend reading Oliver James’s book Contented Dementia 24-hour Wraparound Care for Lifelong Well-being as he details procedures used by Penny Garner which she developed and used on her own mother. The procedures enable you to have a conversation without putting stain on either of you. Safe conversations are developed and this is important as you don’t want to cause anguish and stress to the sufferer.
Here are a couple of golden rules for dealing with dementia:
- Never contradict what they are saying. Yes, this can be the most difficult thing in the world. You will have to bite your tongue, count to 3, breathe out and release.
- Photographs: A big no, no. They won’t recognise themselves or others in the picture (they think they are decades younger than they are) and it causes great stress as they think they should know this person, as they are being told who they are but they can’t remember.
- Mirrors – similar to photographs as, down the line they won’t recognise themselves.
Early Warning Signs:
Something just doesn’t seem right. They will do things that are out of character. They may make comments that shock you, they type of thing that they would normally keep to themselves and may mention to one or two people in private company but not announce to a group, i.e. ‘well you look awful in that dress’.
If you can visit their home, this will be a big clue. Look in the fridge and the cupboards. Here’s what you may find, either no food as they forget to eat, or lots of the same item, for example bread as when at the shops they will forget they have already bought it.
Also their appearance may change, they may go from being someone who would never leave the house if a hair was out of place, to being in dirty clothes as they won’t change their clothes or wash and they won’t see the dirt.
In the long term some sufferers may become violent and when this happens they have to go into specialist care. Looking after someone with dementia is exhausting and never think you have failed by moving them to more suitable accommodation. Here they can have round the clock care, which they need and you can’t manage that yourself.