Thursday, May 22, 2014

Demystifying Dementia: Dementia Awareness Week 18 -24 May 2014

PHS editor and Harlequin Historical Michelle Styles has a Mother In Law who suffers from later stage dementia. Failure to talk about the condition led to a huge family crisis at the beginning of the year, this column seeks to give some inforomation so hopefully someone else might not have to go through the trauma.

It is National Dementia Awareness week this week (18 - 24 May) in the UK.  You can learn more about what is going on at alzheimers.org.uk/DAW2014.

This last month for me and my family has brought some positive changes. The Deputyship for the Court of Protection has come through at long last. It means my mother-in-law's care bills can now be paid. Warwickshire Social Services have been brilliant but the money does have to be paid. The house can now be sold. It also means we can now claim for all the benefits that she entitled to.
 My in laws did not like forms and did not know to start and were too proud to ask.  My husband and I had merrily assumed that they were responsible adults and would ask and get the appropriate help.  We even provided them with the forms but my father in law decided it was far too daunting. he simply left them in a folder. My husband did not want to push.
My mother in law also decided that the Dementia Advisers were not for her. And my father in law didn't realise that they would have supported him as well. They did not inform us of this fact and led up to believe that they were being supported.
We assumed that they had everything under control.  But they were in fact sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it would all go away. With the failure to claim benefits, they missed out on thousands of pounds which could have gone towards keeping my mother in law independant and out of full time care.
There is a lot of help out there but you need to be proactive to get it.
The person who is supporting someone with dementia or living with a person with dementia needs support and care as well. Without it, it is very easy to lash out and become frustrated and the situation spirals down and down and down.
People will fill in forms for the elderly if they get confused but they have to want it done. It can be very hard to speak to aging parents about this, particularly if you are not very close.

BUT an ounce of prevention is worth a whole lot of hassle.  And the Court of Protection is a lot of expensive hassle -- form filling in, reports etc etc. A Power of Attorney is far simpler for all concerned. It does not come into effect until PROFESSIONALS decide it is time.
 My mother in law is very happy in her care home. She is where she needs to be. She is putting on weight. Like anyone she has good days and bad days. Some days she will do things and other days she won't.  The one thing she will not talk about is my father in law. She prefers to assume that he does not exist. This says something about the state of their marriage at the end. They were married in 1956 and were very much a couple until my mother in law developed her dementia.

People with dementia and those who care for them need help and sympathy rather than shunning. Dementia is a problem with communication so it is important to learn how to communicate effectively. This can be a struggle for some people, particularly if they are not very good at it in the first place but it does pay rewards. And little things can assist.

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