Dementia Awareness

This post is dedicated to the memory of my Mum, who died nine years ago this week, on 15th May 2008.

This Sunday was celebrated in many countries around the world as Mothers’ Day, although not here in the UK, as we mark the occasion on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which in effect means we do it in March. I’m rather grateful for this, as it would be too poignant a memory for me if we were celebrating around the time of Mum’s passing. It is also a poignant time of year for another reason, and so I’ve decided to rework and update a post I originally wrote in 2013.

Following closely on last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week – which I wrote about in Feeling Good? – is another aimed at raising awareness of a condition that affects many. From 14th to 20th May it is Dementia Awareness Week, which is run here in the UK by the Alzheimer’s Society. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Unite Against Dementia’ and as usual there will be activities and events across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Society’s hope is that people will be encouraged to take part and, by so doing, learn more about dementia, as the longer we all live the more of us will be affected by it – either ourselves or in a loved one. It is therefore important that we all know more about the condition, so that we can recognise the signs and will know how to cope if a loved one is diagnosed with dementia in any of its forms. In the Society’s words ‘The more we know about dementia, the more prepared we’ll be to face it.’

As you’ve probably guessed from the rather large clue in the dedication for this post, I have first hand experience of a loved one with dementia. Mum lived an independent life for many years but there came that awful time when we realised that she needed round the clock support, the kind that can only be given in a nursing home. The one we found was a good one and they looked after Mum very well, even when she was shouting that they were trying to murder her when they put her in the hoist to get her out of bed! But in her last year her decline from dementia was noticeable – she still recognised my sister and me when we visited her until the very late stages of her life, and could hold a perfectly sensible conversation for quite a while. But over time she became less able to converse, and the standard symptoms of memory loss began to show. She was taken into hospital as she wasn’t feeding well, and they told us that there was nothing they could really do for her. In effect, her dementia had affected her brain’s working so much that it wasn’t telling her body how to function – it had ‘forgotten’ how to eat and drink, so Mum had to be given this via a drip. Within a week of being discharged back to the nursing home she slipped peacefully away.

I’m telling you this partly, I suspect, because it helps me to set it down – especially this close to the anniversary – but because I know what the Alzheimer’s Society means when it talks about how the illness can affect others, not just the sufferer. It isn’t a preventable disease in the sense that medicine will stop it taking hold, but there are ways to live with it and enjoy a satisfying life. But you need to be ready, and you need to be aware. That’s why I’m supporting Dementia Awareness Week, and hope that you will too.

If you want to find out more, the Alzheimer’s Society’s dedicated page has all that you need to know about the week. Their site also has links to some very helpful literature for downloading – there is a wealth of useful information here, though you may have to search! They also tell you about the various ways you can get involved, either by organising or taking part in events or by uniting with someone against dementia and posting your picture on their wall.

As is my usual custom with my Dates To Note pieces if I’m giving you the link to the NHS website for more information. It is well worth a look if you want to find out more about this pernicious disease.

If you know someone you fear may be suffering but has not yet been diagnosed, this would be a good time to follow up on the advice I’ve linked you to. Only about 45% of sufferers are diagnosed and treated appropriately, and even though the Government has recognised the need to do more they have yet to demonstrate any real commitment to doing something about it. Maybe, once the dust has settled on our election, they will take some real, much needed action – but I’m not holding my breath.

Be aware. Get involved. Please.

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34 thoughts on “Dementia Awareness

  1. So sorry for your loss, Clive. My parents were starting down this road but died before full blown and I was lucky they knew who we were even at the end of their lives. My husband’s beloved grandmother was afflicted and it was so sad to lose her while alive and then lose her again when she died.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry for your loss Clive. The loss of parent is tough no matter the circumstances. Dementia seems to be affecting way too many of our loved ones and I often wonder why… I have a dear relative in permanent care who still has remarkable insights on life. I have lost several others to this terrible disease. I so hope for better research and funding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My mother died at 94 seven years ago. She was loved by seven children, who still mourn her passing, and think about her each day. She had Alzheimer’s, with all of the classic symptoms. One thing we did was to dedicate a city park bench to her, with a placard bearing her name and a testimonial. The bench sits overlooking a beautiful ocean view on her favorite walking route. I can’t tell you how many times we drive or walk past and commemorate her! It has been a boon to our healing. Thanks, Clive, for reminding us, once again, about this disease and its effects on families.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sadly, Jodie – and EVERYONE reading – that’s not always true.

      Years ago now, the mother of an ex-fiance was visiting his brother and his [now] wife told me of dressing her warmly to go for a walk in NYC. As she handed L. her hat, tears welled up in her eyes as she said, “I know I know what that IS, but I can’t remember what it’s for.”

      This woman, at least, understood all too well what was happening to her for much of the process. While heartbreaking for onlookers in the family, it was terrifying for her – especially since everyone around her pretended it wasn’t happening (meaning only the best).

      BEAUTIFUL tribute, Clive. Thank you so much for posting your personal experience and its toll on this week’s Senior Salon. I applaud your courage in sharing, even as I’m SO sorry to read that you have something like this to share.

      With the population bulge of the Boomer generation now Seniors, we ALL need to truly understand the devastation, unpleasant as it can be to focus there, as we lobby for more funding appropriation for research and care — and do all we can to learn how to maintain our own brain health as we grow older.
      xx,
      mgh
      (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
      ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
      “It takes a village to educate a world!”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. First of all, I am sad for your loss. I know from personal experience that losing a parent is a cut to the heart that never heals. You learn how to absorb it into a place where it sits benignly but there are always days and weeks when it is acutely painful. There is no cure. Dementia on the other hand we must work toward finding a cause and a cure. The disease is on the march and on the rise. And we must do all we can to halt it. Probably not today but soon, if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch ‘Still Alice’.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your kind words and empathy. This is always a hard week for me and I’m sure it’s the same for you when the anniversary comes around. I just wish the government would see the sense in funding research and treatment properly – in financial terms alone it would be a good investment in saving the NHS future expense, let alone the massive difference it would make to so many lives. I’ve read about that movie and the book from which it came, and will check them out xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • My father passed on May 10th 2003 …. just about over the annual hillock now. You are so right about the Government. I hope you will get value from the film/book. I havent’ read the book. But I should. Xx

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m sorry for your recent anniversary too, but glad to hear that time is helping the healing process. It’s been a while since the Government promised action, but they seem to have forgotten about that in their rush to destroy the country. xx

        Liked by 2 people

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