My writing recently took me to a few words on this personal experience. I normally just keep this stuff in journals, but maybe you, or your family are going through something similar. So I thought I’d share.
Granny, the matriarchal, sometimes fierce, yet loving woman, has got dementia. It’s been gradual, and gentle in a way, but it’s constant and certainly worsening.
I first thought things were getting strange just before christmas 2016. After another fall, all her wine was replaced for an alcohol free alternative. Yet, four months later she still hadn’t realised we’d swapped it. She was constantly referring to it as “real” wine and dishing it out as gifts. Not once has she read the labels. Not once had she noticed, the surely differing effects the two wines produce. There was quite clearly no cognitive connection taking place around her alcohol consumption.
Just the other day she mentioned how boring life was and how nothing was happening. It was the day after the Manchester Arena bomb, and my dad pointed out that one of the worst UK based terror attacks had just taken place. “They get what they deserve in Manchester…” She replied, tailing off and looking away. Now, at this point it’s very important to note that my dear granny grew up on the outskirts of Manchester during WWII. She has lived a lot of her life as a proud Lancastrian. This statement made NO SENSE. Rightly or wrongly, where did she think Manchester was? She certainly wasn’t referring to the town she’d grown up around. Did she even understand what had happened? Was it a throwaway comment to something she had just misheard? So many questions…
The follow up to this was even more intriguing. My dad then asked her what she would find interesting.
“Space”. She paused. “I hear they’re just about to send someone into space. Now that will be interesting.”
With a few more comments around her marriage and the death of certain people we’ve identified that, in her mind, she’s bizarrely stuck somewhere, flitting between the present day, and the early 1960s.
Documenting this over the past few months or so, has been such a mixed bag of emotions. At times, it has been funny. Her imaginary tales of taking a dog for a walk. Her description of the routes they travel on these casual bimbles are hilarious. There is a dog where she lives. Granny, however, can barely walk.
Mostly though, the decline is a slow shallow sadness. Which is fine of course, being sad. It hasn’t consumed our family. Everyone has still turned up for her. Loving and caring for granny as best they can. I see her children develop a patience and tolerance one can only really muster in situations like these.
The dementia is only one part of this old age story. Broken bones are now not a surprise as she’s wheeled out of the x-ray department after another fall. And it’s kind of weird because we all know how this ends. But, in the meantime, she marches on(in plastercast) And we’ll laugh and cry as much as we need to. Because it’s life. And it’s the only way.