It’s Dementia Awareness Week, next week, and it has given me pause for thought about the condition. I am very fortunate indeed not have encountered the condition personally, none of my close relatives have been diagnosed with the condition and I have had no close friends living with dementia BUT my next door neighbour’s Dad has it and boy has it impacted on their lives.
My neighbour now lives almost full time with his Dad, leaving his wife all alone most of the week. He had carers in for a while but did not trust them and now feels obliged, as the only child, to take his work and belongings over to his Dad’s and take care of him as best he can. Viewed from an emotional distance this has got be avoidable for all concerned, his Dad is diminishing, each time I see him; never a tall chap he seems to have shrunk considerably over the last few months. I also worry about our neighbour’s relationship – it just cannot be easy dealing with this and no one seems to be offering him the right support and resources. I can’t help feeling that if he had cancer or other life-limiting physical condition I would know exactly what to do and what agencies to get him to bother! The stigma of a mental health condition like dementia does not just sit with the person diagnosed but with the family and all of those around them. Reaching out for help is clearly really difficult and so many hurdles put in your way when no one single point of contact is readily identifiable. His Dad doesn’t live in the same village so the GP link is tricky and moving him to live with him was never an option as they have an old cottage that just would not be safe for his Dad to live in. His Mum is already in a Care Home following a stroke three years ago and that is costing him money. I can’t offer a solution but I can at least raise awareness of what people are putting up with and making do with!!
We have events at work all next week and I have been really heartened by the students’ interest and enthusiasm to sign up for sessions. It was never a condition we were really taught about when I was a student but it was one I encountered early on in my clinical practice, on my first ward. A little lady hitting me with her walking stick as she was agitated and upset; I am not convinced we did anything particularly constructive to help her back then. That memory reminds me of how fragile we all are ( to quote Sting) and how many of us will need help and support from increasingly creaking and brittle health and social care services in the future. Fingers crossed the current Government don’t destroy it.