Confronting a diagnosis of dementia
Date: 27th June 2017
When I was a student, I held a party and was short of women to come. A friend of mine brought Joy and it was, as the cliché says, love at first sight.
It is difficult to detect the early signs of dementia. Joy was not a particularly tidy person – it is the only fault that I have ever been able to find in my wife! The untidiness, however, became more like chaos. There were simple things like she couldn’t find her bus pass when we were trying to go out. These became more and more acute and more and more noticeable to a point when you could no longer ignore it.
I will never forget the day when a care worker came to tell Joy she had the diagnosis. She said “You have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia” and Joy said “Well, we will just have to get on with it then, won’t we?”, which is very much the sort of person she was.
It gradually became apparent to me that I wasn’t able to offer Joy the care that she needed. Bringing in other people to help with care alleviated the problem to some extent, but that still wasn’t enough. It’s a progressive challenge and you become gradually less able to meet the challenge. I don’t think moving into a care home is an easy decision for anyone to make and I try to visit my wife in the home every day to maintain the contact with her and try to keep that bit of normality in her life.
It’s horrible living on my own. I call it the ‘empty chair syndrome’. One of my sons is not well. Who is the person I want to discuss that with most? His mother – and I can’t. The loss is very real and very acute and very painful.
When you have been accustomed in life to encountering problems and dealing with them, it is terrible to find that you can do nothing for the person you care about the most. The feeling that you can’t do anything to stop this deterioration is devastating.
Around 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia. There is currently no cure for it. Dementia is more than just memory loss; the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways, including changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, difficulty communicating and problems judging distances. Everyone’s experience of dementia is different. For more information about dementia, please visit Alzheimer’s Society or Dementia UK.