This Christmas a close friend of mine will be dividing her time between her family and caring for her mother with dementia.
Her mother, Eve, has had dementia for several years with a slow but continuous decline. She now lives with her daughter and four grandchildren and Julia is her main carer.
Eve no longer recognised her daughter and appears to has no idea who are grandchildren are. This regularly leads to stress and upset in the family. She does remember her husband and spends most of her time trying to find him. Days in their home can be happy and sometimes they are fraught with anxiety when Eve can’t find “her young man”.
My friend struggles to cope as she wants to care for her mother but the impact on her family life is immense. The children have had to adapt and become more resourceful and independent as their mother is increasingly housebound in her caring role. She has fought and pestered for the small amount of help she receives and has learnt how to care for her mother with very little support from health and social services.
This month the G8 called for more research into finding a cure for dementia. This is a major step forward for those of us who will have dementia in 15 or 20 years but for my friend and her mother any hope of a cure will come too late.
So what do I wish for Christmas?
I want Julia to be able to care for her mother and also give her children the time she needs. I want people like her to receive accurate and clear information about how to look after their relative with dementia and to know that there is someone who they can ask for help and advice. I want her and others to be able to take an hour or two off from their caring role confident that their relative is safe.
While we strive for a cure for dementia we must not forget the people who have the condition now. Perhaps it is impossible to expect health and social services to provide comprehensive support for carers, but if they don’t do it who will?
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality