In amongst the many job applications being sent out (seriously, why are all the closing dates at the end of July - I am panicking here!!!), I am also spending a chunk of my time helping to care for Furball's Grandmother who has Alzheimer's. I had very little knowledge of Alzheimer's before now. Most of my knowledge came from my friend James' blog about his life and his parents, and a fiction book called "Elizabeth is Missing", which coincidentally was set locally, but I didn't realise until I was reading it. Elizabeth Is Missing showed me some of the frustrations of dementia, both from the side of the carer, but also from the one who is ill, and how it makes them feel to be treated as though they aren't there. Our first point of call was to message James with a "HELP!!! We know nothing!!", and he was amazing pointing us in the direction of so many services and places that could help us. The reality of day to day life has been a huge shock to the system though. In many ways it is like parenting a toddler:
- She is happier if she is out of the house - I am gradually investigating different groups of the equivalent of toddler groups for people with Alzheimer's and their carers. Very similar reasons to play groups, there are other people there who know what they are doing, but also what you are going through. They are set up for safety and entertainment in a way a house isn't. There are trained staff to help if things are all falling apart. I kinda want a Janet* in elderly care form. Last week we went to Reawakening Dance who were absolutely fabulous.
- She is an incredibly skilled escape artist - Seriously, think the Dude without climbing skills.
- She needs constant supervision - that "hang on... is it quiet in there because of sleep or mayhem?" is still the main query of each day.
- She giggles - You know those moments when you are trying to do things, they try to do something else just to be awkward, and then they giggle and it doesn't seem so bad? That.
- She can do it herself - This is the hardest part, because although it is similar to caring for a toddler, she is NOT a toddler, and she knows that, and we must remember that. It becomes so easy to go into "Mummy do it" mode, and just do things for her or give her instructions, but we have to constantly remind ourselves that she is an adult. If she wants to do things with her hair/makeup/clothes/the contents of her handbag then she is a grown woman, and so long as it isn't putting her or others in danger, we need to let her have that control.