My mother suffered from Dementia but she wasn’t too bad. She could not remember things from one moment to the next and she would sometimes behave in a childlike manner and have occasional temper tantrums. Sometimes she would even scream abuse at me, but then a short time later would apologise. It must have been sad for her to realise that she acted in this way, as she obviously did know, else she would not have apologised.
But an associate of mine was aged 84 when his beloved wife passed away after suffering severe dementia for some years. He had to feed and dress her but did get some outside help for showers and toilet.
He was absolutely devoted to her. While she could still speak she asked him to ‘marry her’ but eventually she could not speak either. While she was still able to walk he would take her out to lunch or to a meeting he might have to attend and help her with her food and toilet.
All his friends and associates were in awe of how his love shone like a beacon when he was with her. One morning she simply did not wake up; she had died peacefully in her sleep. While my husband attended the funeral, I stayed at the house to prepare food for any guests after the funeral.
This was when I shed tears. Not because of the one lost, but the state of the house. It was like one of those homes of hoarders that you see on T.V. The house was too small for the belongings and an adult daughter had moved in with all her belongings too. Everything was an unbelievable mess.
Just trying to clean the kitchen so that I could prepare food was a challenge. I guess they had lived for so long in the mess that they just didn’t know where to start to clean up. Even with the passing of his wife, I don’t think my associate at the age of 84 had the strength, energy or inclination to do anything towards a cleanup.
As to the daughter- what can I say? She didn’t have full time work, so there was no excuse as to why she couldn’t make a start ‘one room at a time’. It was obvious that for some years the family gave all their time to look after the wife/mother who was so seriously ill with dementia.
I must admit, I could not sleep for a number of nights – I kept seeing the horrific state the home was in and wondering how the family lived in such squalor for so long. I believe in helping others when I can, but I couldn’t just take over his house and insist it be cleaned up – I wasn’t close enough to the family to do that.
So, I decided to help him by inviting him to my place regularly for a meal or just a ‘cuppa’. He could relax in the quietness and tidiness of my home and could even bring his beloved dog to frolic with mine. I hoped that this would bring some peace and tranquillity to his life as well as providing companionship.
You will read in my book ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’ how I was able to help fellow patients while I was still in hospital. It is my nature to help people when I can. I believe that if you work at helping others, you are less likely to stress about your own problems. I am so grateful that others reading my book are finding it so helpful and think it is a ‘good read’ – check out what they have to say.
Hints and Tips
When you see that someone is in need, put yourself out to help them. The more you help others the less time you will have to worry about yourself. But if you are literally ‘snowed under’ trying to look after a loved one who suffers from dementia, ask for help before the home collapses into an unbelievable mess. Councils and Health Care centres will offer support for free (or at a greatly reduced price) for those in need.