I’m a night bird, always have been. I like to watch movies, listen to music, snack on junk and occasionally go for walks or a drive. But I have learnt there’s a difference between choosing to stay awake, and feeling forced to. Everyone has ‘that time of night’. The time when your mind starts wandering and struggles to shut off. For me, this can go either one of two ways. I’m either feeling motivated, planning products, making lists in my head or even feeling excitement towards the day ahead. Or, I’m stressing. Overthinking situations in my life, why did I do things that way? Where am I going? Do I have a future? I wish I could tell you how you could tackle those nights, but I can’t. I think I just stress myself to the point of exhaustion, until I pass out in bed and carry the thoughts on in my dreams (nightmares). But, this post isn’t actually about sleep, or the affects or anything of the sorts. I want to share the biggest thought that keeps me up on the bad nights – “will my grandma forget me soon?”
Millions of families across the globe understand the affects dementia can have not only on the patient, but them also. It’s hard, really hard. Take yesterday for example, we had my Nan up for a pre-birthday celebration. It was only her and my parents, but nevertheless we had a lovely afternoon of food, drinks and music. That was until about half-way through, when she started asking the questions. “Who is taking me to my appointment on Wednesday?” I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard that question yesterday, but I can tell you it would be close to twenty five times. On the drive home, she asked me twice the same appointment question, and again another thirteen times that night with phone calls. It was at this point that we knew, as a family, what needed to be done. That we had hit the point that she could no longer look after herself, and needs to be somewhere where she can receive regular help.
This isn’t an easy decision for any family to make, to place a loved one in a care home. But as three adults working full time, and me in University, we just don’t have the time (or space in a two bed cottage) to take it on ourselves. As a family, we spent the whole of last night stressed, to the point of crying. As a family, we spent the whole of last night angry. Angry that we have come to this point in our lives, that we never wanted to reach. As a family, we spent the whole of last night rushing to the phone when it rang, knowing exactly what the conversation would be before answering.
But alone, she spent the whole of last night picking up her diary, noticing she had an appointment on Wednesday, and calling to ask for help. Alone, she spent the whole of last night stressing about her week. Alone, she spent the whole of last night confused on why her family was getting frustrated on the other side of the phone. Alone, she spent last night scared.
Dementia is a horrible illness, one that can tear families apart in the space of a few months. One that you know will never go away, but only get worse. I am a family member of a dementia patient, and I know how it feels to watch someone slip away slowly, to lose someone that is still there. I see her in front of me, but she’s gone.