Dementia & Us

I am one of those fortunate enough to have had my four grandparents growing up. Until several years ago when I lost my grandfather on my Dads side to cancer, the word most of this population is allergic to hearing. I am still lucky enough to have my nanny, my nana & my comical grandfather. Nanny and nana are how we distinguish the two! However I’m losing my nana….ironically to herself. She has early to mid onset of Dementia. It has caught my family and I by both surprise and by storm, especially as Nana was as fit as a fiddle and healthy as a small horse all her life. It is not a case of her not knowing who we are or anything like that but one thing is for sure is that the affecting change it has had on her is something I have never witnessed in my whole entire life.

So what is Dementia? It’s caused by different parts of the brain which are normally used for learning, memory & language (mind you she has no problem with the language at times telling poor granddad where to get off haha). The experience a person suffering from dementia is rarely the same for two people. Nanas ability to socialize, make plans, remember certain things, find her way around or often her moods have all been affected in some way. Which in turn has shattered both her independence & confidence. Much to our heartbreak.

My nana was always such a glamorous lady, a model in her younger years I’ll have you all know. She was one of those ladies who got all dressed up to do the shopping in Dunnes and the few bits up town. She took pride in her amazing garden and had the greatest green fingers I have ever known and she would often take off each day to do a three-mile walk. Now she prefers the comfort of a warm fluffy jumper, more leggings than your average teenager and lives for her runners! Her garden is still one to be admired but she sets off to do one thing in it and gets distracted to go off and do another ten different things, so granddad does most of the upkeep in the garden now. She doesn’t go for her walks anymore because she took off one day several months back, got disoriented and lost her way – giving us one of the most gut wrenching experiences ever, so now one of us must always go with her, much to her annoyance at times!

It is super important if you know or have someone suffering in your life from dementia that you have a knowledge and understanding of what exactly it is, if you lack in information about it, it can make it more difficult and challenging for both you & the sufferer. Most of the family, myself included, don’t make nana feel alienated in any way because even though her mind may be scattered at times, she is no fool and doesn’t miss a beat. She hates being bossed or pestered in any way, she likes to do things in her own time. At times her and granddad may get into a tizzy about something and it’s like watching a rap battle with disses and sass, never mean or cruel, always light-hearted and they always resolve their tizzy with a cuppa and a rich tea ūüôā But she is still well able to give as good as she gets when she gets annoyed. ¬†Nana was always a strong force and sometimes I can be too so if we start to disagree or clash I am not long zipping it when Nana pipes up, I know she’s well able for me too.

Even though we are aware it will get worse as time goes on we embrace each hurtle¬†as it comes to us and my granddad has wrapped Nana up in a cocoon of protection, compassion & love which I will admire until the day I die. Nana makes us laugh every day we are out at their house and whats more is she laughs with us. Sometimes when you meet someone with dementia, it can be hard to know what to say or to do. I find if you don’t make it seem there is something wrong, involve them in conversations and situations so they feel included, even though they may not have an iota whats going on. If they are uncomfortable¬†they will more often than not make it a known fact. If it’s a case where they may ask or say something which may not make much sense, I find an easy truth approach works best for me. Work with your words and don’t overdo it on the information so you don’t confuse them. A simple answer should do. Example would be when nana asked me the other day about a Coronation Street actor who has been dead for several years, when I told her this she was pure shocked and couldn’t believe it, then two minutes later she says, “Sure I knew that!”, flicked her hair and off she trotte. it’s as if she knows when she may not be making sense. To keep someone with dementia engaged with things is important, not to leave them out because you may feel uncomfortable, just imagine what they go through each day!

For now in this lifetime there is no cure, just meds. Most importantly there is support & love. Life will change for a sufferer and their families but it is certainly not the end. There is nothing or no one to blame for a person having dementia, it can’t be ‘stopped at an early stage’ or anything like that, a person’s brain is above and beyond anyone and any things control or capability. You learn to take each day as it comes, the bad days will be ugly but yet the good days may be great.

I love my nana very much. If you’re lucky enough to still have any of your grandparents in your life – go see them. If they live far away – ring them. If they are not with you anymore- think of the good memories. If you never met your grandparents, ask those who did for the memories. Cherish them all.



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