One of the curses of working within healthcare is that people automatically think you know everything remotely medical. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. There was a time when I was about 14 that I thought about being a doctor, but there was an obstacle – I really didn’t understand biology. What’s the relevance of this you may ask? Well during my somewhat eclectic career, I spent some time working with a well-known private care home provider. In that role, I was very fortunate to meet both people who were living with dementia, and the amazing folks that care for them. I’d written many articles about it, talked to the care homes residents who, on their good days, were the most intriguing characters with some amazing life experiences, and interviewed families about the impact.
My point is this… I knew about dementia. I knew the signs, I knew the symptoms, and I knew the devastating impact it has.
It was the little things I began to notice at first; asking the same question again, the odd repeated conversation, forgetting where she’d put things. Then over the course of a year or so, it became more and more noticeable. She’d appear vacant, or would stop listening. In groups, she seemed to slowly withdraw. Family members brought it up in conversation. My sister and I talked about it possibly being dementia, but I’d find excuses to justify her behaviour. We knew she’d had a TIA a couple of years before, so I’d put it down to that. “Maybe she needs a hearing test?” The results were fine. And then it would settle down for a while and we’d all carry on as if nothing was wrong. That happened a few times, and over the course of a couple of years we just put it down to Mum “being Mum”. We’d occasionally talk about it, behind closed doors, and then change the subject; the prospect too unbearable to give strong consideration to.