THIS week is Dementia Action Week, a national bid to encourage people to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
Observer editor Rob George lost his mum to the illness in 2016 and shares his and his family’s experience of caring for someone with dementia.
I WROTE about losing my mum back in May 2016, just months after she died at the age of just 72 years old.
Since then the rise in dementia cares has continued to rise and tragically we are no nearer in finding either a cure or treatment to substantially tackle such a cruel illness.
One in three of us born in the UK today will go on to develop dementia in our lifetime, and there will be one million people living with dementia by 2025 making dementia care one of the greatest challenges facing our society.
Even though it’s been five years since mum’s struggle came to an end, it breaks my heart to hear daily of those who have been handed the awful news as I know the road ahead.
After her death I vowed to always keep talking about dementia and its effects, on both the individual affected and their loved ones. We must keep talking about it and reach out to all corners of our community to spread the message.
You aren’t alone – It’s very easy to be isolated after a diagnosis, some people will drift away because the person they knew has changed and they can’t process it, others will step up and become a rock to depend on.
If a loved one has been diagnosed then be open, share it with family and friends and don’t be afraid to ask for support. My father left his job and began the first day of retirement as a full-time carer with no medical training.
It’s a scene being replicated up and down the land, while love will spur any carer on there will come a time when more help is needed.
You haven’t ‘failed them’ – Sadly there will come a time when admission to a care home may well be needed for your loved one’s health and safety. This is not because a carer has ‘failed’ but simply a sign this cruel illness is having an effect.
Your loved one is still there, just hidden away – Talk to them, show them affection and endeavour to carry on as best as you can. Sadly my mum heard she was to become a grandmother after she went into a care home but the news certainly registered with her as did the birth of her grandson Jacob.
The last time I saw her was with my wife, our son and my father for an afternoon which felt special at the time and feels so poignant even to this day.
Mum’s wonderful carers made such a fuss of ‘Sheila’s grandson’ visiting and we could tell inside she was so proud to hear her grandson playing and having fun. She left us some 36 hours later.
After a diagnosis, the person is still your mum, your wife, your husband, your father, your brother, sister or even just your friend you’ve known for more years than you care to remember.
Don’t be afraid, the help is out there. You aren’t the first to have to tackle the road ahead, it’s a path well worn by so many.
If you’re worried that you, or someone close to you, might have dementia, call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or e-mail email@example.com for advice and support.
Find out the five things that you should be aware of when it comes to dementia. It’s not a natural part of ageing and it’s not just about memory loss
1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing – We all forget a name or a face sometimes. Especially as we get older. But dementia is something different.
2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease cause nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.
3. It’s not just about losing your memory. When most people hear the word dementia, they think of memory loss.
4. People can still live well with dementia. Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one.
5. Alzheimer’s Society is here for anyone affected by dementia to provide expert information and support to anyone affected by dementia.
Visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/find-support-near-you for more on local services.