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OPINION

Dealing with dementia

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Dealing with dementia is frustrating for the person with the condition, but also for family carers.

Providing this sort of care at home is a 24-hour, seven-day a week job with little or no time to relax. From personal experience, I have seen the devastating effect of Alzeimer’s on my family and the difficulty in getting support from health and social services.

My grandparents celebrated 60 years of marriage last year. Since my Nan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, her mental state has inevitably worsened. My Grandad is now her full-time carer although my parents, myself and our family help as much as we can. 

Now 86, Nan struggles to know what day it is. I find one of the hardest things to deal with is that she doesn’t realise she has dementia. It’s a daily argument to explain when and why something is happening. It’s heartbreaking to see someone so close to me forget simple information, but that’s Alzheimer’s.

My grandparents have a carer visit them twice a week. Nan doesn’t like a stranger walking into her home but she is getting used to it. Nurses who work in the community need to understand this.

The pressures of caring mean that my Grandad is becoming more and more exhausted. In their 60 years together, my Nan and Grandad have never been separated, so he dismisses the idea of Nan living in a care home.

Finding respite care has become increasingly difficult. Nan used to go to a day care centre once a week but following NHS cuts, this stopped. With people living longer, the problem will only get worse. As day care centres disappear and respite care homes become overwhelmed by longer waiting lists, carers - many of whom are elderly themselves - are unable get a break from their responsibilities.

After months of struggling, Mum finally found a respite home for two weeks. It will cost Grandad £2,500 but will give him a much-needed holiday.

It seems unfair that Grandad has to pay after paying taxes all his life. Good care inevitably comes at a price but some people can’t afford this. What happens then? Carers and family members continue to struggle and it takes a toll on their own health. So the injustice of them being unsupported may not even save money; if caring makes my Grandad ill, the NHS will pick up the bill for two people’s care.

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