Some one told me once that unless you live with young onset dementia in your family you really can’t understand the diverse complexity of the disease. I look at Ken today, smooth skinned and tanned in a red jumper, as smart and relaxed as anyone could be. Hidden underneath is the man who can’t remember what he needs to brush his teeth, had his jumper on back to front and simply puts the clothes I’ve laid out on top of the one’s he’s already wearing, about to get in the shower before I catch him .
But he’s easy to spruce up, our daily shaving ritual, nice clothes that he wears well (if I’m there to check they aren’t inside out), glasses cleaned, shoes on the right feet, no one would never guess the effort it takes to get ready every morning. Carers understand.
I am so proud of some of the heroic, selfless demonstrations of care the media has chosen to expose to the public. Care home workers choosing their clients before their own families, camping in the gardens of their work-places, avoiding outside contacts in a bid to keep Covid away from residents protecting lives.
I’m not at all surprised, I’ve worked in Nursing homes, and well understand the bonds between staff and residents, everyone having a favourite. Unlike hospitals this is home, a permanent and let’s face it expensive place to live out later life in comfort and security, where families feel safe entrusting Granny.
The numbers of people who have died prematurely horrific enough, but it goes nowhere to express the fears of those living through the pandemic with no control.
I worry acutely for dementia care homes especially, the pressure for staff must be enormous, I struggle trying to help Ken understand, but I’m not wearing a face mask like an alien. People with dementia need expression to understand the world. Now faceless and muffled, constantly reassuring a concept we all find difficult, it must be exhausting for Carers, and frightening for residents ill equipped to deal with our new world.
Confined to their rooms or socially distanced in the dining room. Routines completely out of the window, None of the usual activity and socialising, but very worst of all no access for family and friends to visit.
I received a letter from a beautiful in mind and manner lady in her 90’s last week, independent until very recently but now needs a bit of help. She tells me that ‘they are not allowed to touch anyone and that they have three at the dining tables instead of four, the Carers come and go quickly, and that so far everyone has been ok except for the ‘normal’ bits and pieces which cause problems for individuals who are just wearing out!’
Apologising for her wobbly hand writing and ‘rambling sort of letter’ she goes on to tell me about the view she has over the garden and the big cherry tree in full blossom that gives her such joy, and how much she misses her family and the little trips out with them.
I write back, send photos and love.
Thank you staff for working hard to keep her safe, I’m sure she is a favourite, she is certainly one of ours.
Carers everywhere I hope your skills will be better appreciated and regarded by us all in future.