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Warning: this is a long review.. don't feel like you have to read it.. I just hope that it is useful/comforting/informing to at least one person who may be going through something similar. I have finally reached 100 reviews on here so I thought I would write about something close to my heart... My Grandma. Sadly she has Alzheimer's and she is no longer the woman we once knew. As I started to write this I wasn't sure I was going to publish it but I know that my grandma would like me to share our story if it could help others in a similar position. In writing this I am not looking for sympathy or pity.. I just wanted to write our story to ease some of my pain.... I found this extremely difficult to write but it has also been comforting too.. remembering my grandma as she once was (which in day to day life can be difficult). Alzheimar's disease is awful. I didn't ever appreciate how truly awful it is until it affected our family. "Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around 465,000 people in the UK. The term 'dementia' is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions." As the disease progresses, they may: * become confused, and frequently forget the names of people, places, appointments and recent events * experience mood swings. They may feel sad or angry. They may feel scared and frustrated by their increasing memory loss * become more withdrawn, due either to a loss of confidence or to communication problems. www.alzheimers.org.uk == The Past == ~ The Early Years ~ My grandma was born in 1934 in the town where I currently live, and has one sister 9 years younger than her. She left school and started work at the co-op shop in Ashington. She loved this job but left when she married my granddad, her next door neighbour, in 1958. In 1961 they had my dad, their only child and my grandma, was a housewife looking after her in-laws (including my grandad's sister who had Down Syndrome) as well as my granddad and dad. I remember as a child hearing so many stories from my grandma's past, from her childhood to the early years of her marriage through to all of my dad's childhood. I heard some of the stories so many times that I could retell them as if they were my own.. sadly as it's so long since I heard them, some of them are now a little bit hazy and are likely to be lost forever as Grandma is in no condition to be able to tell them now. I think though, as a family we have the essence of the most important ones. ~ My Childhood ~ My grandma and granddad were both a huge part of my childhood as my parents worked full time so I spent most of my days at their house. The earliest memory I have of my grandma is being at their house one day with my big sister, Joanne (who's 10 years older than me). We were baking fairy cakes and I desperately wanted to help. I don't know how old I was but I know I wasn't really old enough to do much in the way of baking cakes so it was mainly my grandma and Joanne doing the baking. My grandma gave me a very special job to do though and this made me feel very important! I got to put the bun cases out on the tray ready for Grandma and Joanne to put the mixture in. This is something that my 4 year old niece now loves doing. As I got older I was allowed to assist more and more.. until eventually I was doing it all myself, under supervision. We often baked, all sorts of different things, my grandma was a wonderful cook. We used to go to their house every Sunday for lunch (right up until I was about 17, when it was just getting too much for her). She always baked a cake or a made a trifle for desert. I love Sunday lunches at grandma's house. I sometimes used to sleep there on a Saturday night and I would wake up to the smell of the beef cooking in the oven and the sound of my grandma pottering around in the kitchen. I used to help her set the table and dance around the sitting room putting on singing and dancing shows for my granddad, while I waited for my parents to arrive. In the summer holidays we had lots of days out all over the north east of England.. days to country villages, shops, the beach, the park, churches, castles, picnics.. you name it and we did it. We used to go to Amble, a small fishing village, in Northumberland. My grandma would make sandwiches and we would take some pop and some plastic bowls and buy a bag of chips between us. Sharing a bag of chips seemed like the most exciting thing in the world... on reflection, now as an adult, I realise we probably shared a bag of chips because they couldn't afford to buy us all our lunch but I didn't mind one bit! We used to go for trips out in the car and I usually had my nose in a book in the back of the car. Sometimes though we would play games such as I Spy, or I would look out the window for rabbits (in the country).. my grandma always used to say if we could catch a rabbit I could keep it as a pet.. this was the most exciting part of our trips out.. it never once occurred to me that we wouldn't actually be able to catch a wild rabbit.. I looked for one every single time.. we never did catch one though.. I don't think we ever even stopped the car.. but there was something magical about the thought of catching my very own pet! I had my first pet at my grandma and granddad's house: a hamster called Hammy! He lived for three years and when he died we got a new one, a girl called Millie. After she died, aged 2, I just had my goldfish - one of which lived for 9 years!! I've never really had pets at home, apart from fish and I loved both of my hamsters very much. == Late childhood- adulthood == As I got older I gradually started going to my grandparents house a bit less.. after-school clubs and friends started taking over. I did still go there several nights a week after school as my granddad used to pick me up from school and my grandma made my tea. As the years passed by Grandma gradually got more forgetful and began writing herself notes. I think my granddad covered up a lot of how bad things were getting and it wasn't until 2007 that she actually went to the hospital and got a diagnosis. She was already well along the way of the early stages and they prescribed her Arecept tablets to slow down the progression. She recently stopped taking these as they said they were no longer working. We've seen a change in her since she stopped taking them, maybe it's a coincidence or maybe they were still doing a little bit of good?? It's a progressive disease so she is obviously going to get worse anyway and we are blessed to have been able to have 'her' with us a little bit longer with the benefits of the medication. I don't really remember when we 'lost' her completely, as it has been a gradual process. We've still had some lovely times together, including last Christmas and a couple of sunny days in the garden this summer. The sun really seemed to cheer her up and she laughed the most I'd seen her in a long time. My sister's children are all so nice with her. No one has told them explicitly that Grandma isn't well but they just seem to know and treat her so well. Even my 4 year old niece seems to know there's something a bit different about grandma and she is always extra nice. It's lovely to see them together, especially my niece as she always seems to make my grandma smile. It also makes me a little sad to think that they won't ever know her as the grandma I knew but I we are lucky that she's still been a part of their lives. == The Present == In some ways, well in many ways, my grandma has already left us and there is just a breathing shell of the woman we knew. She lives with my granddad and attends a day centre 4 days a week and has carers coming into their home every morning. My granddad is 86 years old and does remarkably well to look after my grandma at home. We (my parents, myself and my sister) all do as much as we can to help too, and they come to our house every day. Grandma is currently very unsettled and wanders around all the time. She also has recently started self harming (by hitting herself in the head, so hard that it is bruised) and repeatedly says she wishes she was dead. She's on medication to keep her calmer and although this has reduced the regularity of the self harming, it hasn't stopped it completely. It's been a while now since we saw any glimpses of my actual grandma and she talks in almost incomprehensible sentences. Occasionally she'll say something that grammatically makes sense but it usually doesn't make sense to the listener. We can't ask her to repeat what she's said as she doesn't know so we've found it is best to just agree with what she is saying or give general comments to acknowledge we are listening. She still recognises us all but she doesn't seem to know who we are in relation to her or to each other. She usually knows who my granddad is and can usually remember our names but it really depends on the mood she is in. == The Future == Who knows what the future holds? I'm sure we all have a fair idea of what the late stages of Alzheimer's involves so I don't want to go into it too much. But what I will say is that things are not going to get any easier. My grandma's grandmother spent the last days of her life in a hospital for people with mental health problems and was classed as having 'senile dementia'. I remember that as a child I knew this was something that upset my grandma and the words 'dementia' or 'Alzheimer's' were taboo words in grandma's house. Therefore even though my grandma might have 'known' she might end up with a dementia, I'm so glad that we didn't know it would happen or we would spend our whole lives worrying about it. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know if my grandma will actually end up in a residential home. But what I do know is that we cannot worry about what is going to happen as that won't stop it happening. As a family we are living one day at a time and still cling to the memories and good times we've had. I could spend my days crying about our loss (even though my grandma is still alive and technically with us) or I can live my life each day with a smile on my face, knowing that I am truly blessed to have had such a wonderful grandma in my family for so long. Life at the moment isn't how I would have chosen it to turn out but life is a rollercoaster and you have to take the good with the bad. I see my grandparents as much as I can (most days) and I help out as much as I'm able to. It is hard but I know my grandma wouldn't want me moping around so I live my life to the full. I still love my grandma so much even though she isn't the woman she once was. I'm studying speech and language therapy and we've learned about Alzheimer's on the course, from a communication point of view. This has helped me understand it a little bit more.. and it has made me more aware of how to speak to my grandma. She is not able to understand more than one piece of information at a time. I'm going to finish with a poem I wrote 2 years ago. I wrote it in my journal one night when I was struggling to remember my grandma as she was. I have not shared this with anyone (not even my parents as I know it will probably upset them) and I wrote it only for comfort. This poem sometimes makes me cry but, it often makes me smile and remember the good times too.. Where's the grandma I used to know, Who cuddled me tight and watched me grow? Who baked cakes with me and combed my hair, Always smiling with time to care, A game of schools, hospitals or shops, A heart of gold she loved us lots, Who cuddle me in when I was poorly off school, Who sometimes let me bend the rules, Who read me stories and knitted clothes for toys, A wonderful woman who's brought lots of joy, Making sandwiches for trips out in the car, The beach or the park, we sometimes went far, Buying me shoes, clothes or sweets, I was always spoiled with lots of treats, Memories I'll always hold dear to me, That's why it's so hard to watch what I see, A woman I love and once knew so well, Looks almost the same but becoming a shell, Losing memories with each passing day, I love her lots but don't know what to say, She's been there all my life, Right from the start, My wonderful grandma, forever in my heart. Thanks for making it this far.. to the happiness and health of you and your family.. treasure every moment and live very day like it's your last :)
I get annoyed when I watch the soaps and see how they do this illness no justice. My Nan who sadly passed away on the 30th November 2008, suffered with Alzheimer's for 10 years, it turned her into a shadow of her former self and seeing her suffer was so very hard, especially seeing how distraught my mother was. My Mum and grandfather had noticed a change in my Nan so in early 1998 my mum and uncle made an appointment at the hospital. At the appointment they confirmed my Nan had Alzheimer's. They didn't know how to break this to my Nan so chose to wait till the time was right, but when was there a right or wrong time??? My lovely Grandfather was told of my Nan's condition and he did his best to reassure her when she got confused and helped her find something she had misplaced. Sadly in the July he suddenly passed away, this was a massive shock to everyone, I was only 13, and was holidaying in Ibiza with my parents and younger sister when this happened. My parents arranged an early flight home and the funeral was a day later. I noticed an instant change in my Nan, I didn't think the death of my grandfather had actually hit her properly but straight away her condition started worsening. My younger sister, who was 11 at the time, stayed at my Nan's as many nights as possible but found it very hard being there so close to my grandfather's death and my mum would go there from the time we left for school until the time we got home. She would do us tea and then go straight back down for another few hours, put my Nan into bed to watch TV and then come home. On many occasions my mum would have people knocking the door saying my Nan had been seen walking the streets in her slippers, it was so worrying. Being so young I knew there was something wrong by the way she would repeat herself over and over, but I didn't actually realise the extent of the illness. And I'm ashamed to say I did find little things like being asked if I'd locked the door every 5 minutes a little funny, but I was a child and it soon hit me when I walked through my mother's house and my Nan said 'who the hell does she think she is making herself at home' that knocked me, my Nan did not realise who I was. There are many side effects Alzheimer's has; obviously memory loss is the main. But there is so much more, there's confusion, fear, hallucinations, aggression and many more. My Nan stopped eating her meals, my mother would do a food shop for her, go down a few hours later and the meals she had prepared would still be on the side in the kitchen but all the strawberry trifles and cheesecakes bought just a few hours earlier would be gone out of the fridge. Bathing became an issue too. It got to the point where my mum would have to run the bath and partly undress my Nan and take her clothes out of the room as she would just redress herself straight after my mum would leave the room. Walking the streets late at night became a regular occurrence; it was wearing my mother out. After a while my mum decided she needed a break so my Nan went into respite for a fortnight, but when she went home she was terrified, she would phone my mum saying that 'they were going to get her' and kept seeing little insects everywhere, it was heart breaking, she was going downhill and fast. In the end it was in my Nan's best interest that she went into a nursing home, it had taken its toll on my mum and was starting to show. Even more annoying was that my Nan had 3 other children living locally and not one of them made the effort to help with her. In my opinion the first nursing home my Nan stayed at wasn't a very good one, within a space of 2 months my Nan went from talking a lot to being really quiet and looking as if she was being given medication as she looked constantly 'doped up'. Everyone was happy when she was moved to a lovely nursing home in another village. By this time my wonderful Nan who was once so lively and alert was now bed ridden and hardly spoke a word. This was not how I wanted to remember her, my Nan was a big lady, she was the perfect cook, very talkative, easy to confide in, & here in her bed her weight was rapidly disappearing, the only time she spoke was to mutter something about her 'daddy' and being a proud women I no she would have hated having to wear nappies and not have the ability to feed herself. After suffering for so long my Nan refused to eat, for 2 weeks she survived on just water and then gave up on that too. As hard as it was we knew that was her way of saying she was ready to go. All the family gathered around and said our final goodbyes, that evening she drank 2 full beakers of protein drink, we thought this was good but the carer advised us that this was not always a good thing. Late that night my mum was telephoned to say my Nan was being sick, my mum wanted to be with her, so spent the night by her side holding her hand. My auntie and uncle decided my mum needed a break after sitting up all night and said they would sit with her; it was during this time that my Nan slipped away. My mum is devastated she wasn't with mother when she passed away but I think my Nan was a wise woman and knew my mum would never have coped seeing her go, she chose her two strongest children to be with her. The day of my sister's wedding was her last ever outing before becoming bedridden and exactly 6 yrs to the date later she passed away. I now get annoyed at people who make a joke of saying 'oh it's Alzheimer's', whenever they forget something. This is a sad slow and painful death for anyone who suffers the disease and affects the family badly also. I know I may have missed a few things out but will try adding these in the near future. Instead of new bridges and silly statues I think more money should be put into hospital and maybe then a cure will be found for the disease that takes so many lives.
Death smells of p*ss, as simple as. You come into the world as you go out, in pool of bodily fluids and functions as your torso and organs surrender before your brain, the instructions somewhat confused and ignored. When I go around my mums in the hot summer it's the lingering smell of urine that reminds me my dads gone, not the sun stained photos or gold clubs in the attic. We ripped all the carpets and beds out to get rid of the smell but it's always there on a hot sunny day to remind you what's coming to us all. When dementia strikes they know what things are but not what they are for, the bath the toilet (for number ones and twos) you their prison guard. When you lose a parent or relative through dementia, or Alzheimer's as the middle-class call it(posh people don't go mad they have 'long illnesses') and most of you will, it's not only very sad for the person you see demise that way but the carers too, me and my mum not quite the same people after it happened. I moved back home for a while to help her with him when he started to throw punches in his confusion and frustration and it's tough to be around d, the dementia my dad had a serious of small strokes that shut down his bodily functions one-by-one. When your dad finally forgets who you are as that part of his brain crystallises and turns into glue and he thinks his mum is still alive and lives just over the back garden fence and he wants to go home for tea you can't help but feel it. At that point you are now his prison guards and his day is spent being devious and planning the escape. Anyone who has been through this will have a little smile at that. They have earned that smile. I still feel guilty that if we had done more things together he may have had more memories to hold onto to keep it all together. I wasn't close with my dad and he used to whack me with what ever was to hand when I was a kid, a broken man by his early retirement through Type One Diabetes and rolling shifts in hard engineering factories, lashing out because his life was decided once mum had the kids and so the bills to go with. But no one deserves the indignity of dementia. You can avoid cancer by having a good diet and doing exercise but dementia is a complete bastard. One-in-five of you reading this will get it a variation of it and if you're working-class your chances increase radically if you make it to 75. One-in-three of us will get some sort of dementia over the age of 80. Your retirement is not so rosy guys. The human body is just not designed to live that long and it's a huge financial headache for the Treasury that we do. If you're going to give money to a charity then this should be near the top of the list. Forget your self-indulgent animal causes and those three hundred poverty charities that would do a dam site better if they merged. Drop a few pence in the dementia tin. When you see your old man in the NHS hospital in the private room as the rest of the elderly patients howl away with the same illness on the neighbouring general ward as they too near that stage you only see yourself in that bed. I'm lucky I haven't inherited dad's diabetes and keep very fit to avoid that but I'm not sure I will be able to dodge this bullet, writing our only defence against it to keep the mind active. The worse thing about the condition is there's no real cure and my mum may get it too, so I have to go through this all again. Why the government are holding back on these drugs that ease the symptoms is beyond me. They seem to find enough money for half a million illegal immigrants to stay here by paying for their human rights lawyers. Once you get it you're a drain on the state and no one wants to know you as you have no use to society. The wards are full of cases dumped in hospital because care homes are so expensive and so they have no choice but to effectively cull the elderly once they can't function in their homes. Once the patient reaches the point of no return (all the beds are full on the ward, the ward sisters priority not to let that happen) the next of kin is given a form to box tick their mum and dad away. The patient is effectively-and legally-starved of the fluids that sustain life and they are left to waste away. It would not surprise me if the nurses nudge up the morphine levels on the drip when the relatives are not around to move things on some. What else can they do to meet those targets? Everyone I know who lost someone this way say they died in the middle of the night, around 3:30am, usually early in the week. We know to well that the nurses are needed elsewhere on Friday and Saturday nights. I guarantee you a few people reading this received the call early Tuesday morning. If you don't go along with this macabre NHS bureaucracy they give you the option to dump them in the local council care homes that are truly awful places. The stark choice is sell your house to fund the extortionate £600 per week private care home costs or tick the boxes. In my dads case it was the best option as he was too far gone with the strokes. Don't expect the nurses to wipe their asses or feed them on time, either as they know what will happen to your dad eventually and so they too hurry that process along which they see day in day out ion the ward. It's a cruel but necessary factory process and that urine smell is always there in hospitals. If we are lucky 90% of us won't have to go to hospital until the very end, 90% of all the money you pay into the National Health spent on the last six weeks of your life. If you're lucky you will remember the end and the people by your bed. Because nurses are too proud to wipe asses and mop up piss these days the cheap labour orderlies have the task, those crap jobs the core reason for third world immigration, and treated like those two bodily expulsions if they grumble on minimum wage. Because beds remain dirty and infected with the obvious bugs that creates then we see thirty thousand deaths from MRSA like infections a year. That is a lot guys. The whole smoking ban in public was for just 2000 passive smoking related deaths a year. But you can sue against tobacco companies. Some of these people are elderly like my dad and so the deaths' convenient' for bed blocking issues but it also infects people of all ages and good health who go in for less serious operations and procedures, exposed wounds on the wards sucking in the bugs... The government allowed the MRSA figures to be fiddled to disguise how cheap labour contract cleaners have been driving up infection rates. 20,000 people a year die in hospitals after picking up infections. David Boost, the Coventry city defender who had his leg snapped clean in half by Peter Schmichael, couldn't play again because his wound got infected in the hospital by MRSA and not because of the break. When you see these articulate people with terminal illness protesting for the right to die, perched atop the steps a the High Court, they don't contemplate that any legal right to die put through the statute will be more about culling old people with dementia and cancer not about the hundred or so people that use the process of the right to die to keep some human rights lawyers in nice cars and, rather ironically, a reason for those protesting to keep living. There's nothing the government would like more than to lift the elderly burden on the National Health, its biggest spend by far. Keep you and your parent's minds active guys as Dementia is rearing up o western society like a spitting cobra full of venom.
This is something that is very close to my heart and is something that I have never been able to talk about. I do not even know if I will be able to manage to get to the end and submit this review but I will try my hardest. We first noticed that something was wrong with my grandma when I was just 15 years old. We were all in bed one night at home when I heard the phone ring, I then heard my Mam quickly get out of bed and start getting ready. My instant thought was my Grandma. I was always a grandma's girl and was closer to her than I was with my own Mam. Although I love my Mam very much it was my Grandma I wanted when I was poorly or fell oven and hurt myself at school. She never spoilt me, infact I was probably more spoilt by my parents. She was just very loving. Would always tell me she was proud of me. I climbed out of bed and asked Mam through gritted teach and a lump in my throat what was wrong. She explained that my Grandma's next door neighbour had rang to say that she had found her walking down the street in her nightie, dressing gown and slippers. She had managed to get her into the house and had made her a cup of tea but she said she was very distressed. I told my Mam I was going with her and quickly got dressed. That journey to my Grandma's was only 5 minutes but it seemed like a lifetime. When we arrived she looked very upset and confused, she was muttering something about someone in the loft. we managed to calm her down and get her back into bed. I crawled in beside her and told Mam to go home alone as I was staying. The next day my head was all over the place. I didn't know anything about Alzheimers at this point with me being only 15 and I thought it was just old age. We started to go back to normal but I never left my Grandma's house. It was not long before I was due to leave school and my Mam would come for me every morning to take me to school and then took me back to my Grandma's on a night. I never saw my friends or went out, I just stayed in with my Grandma. By this point she was unable to do certain things for herself and I used to have to get her in and out the bath on a night and help her into bed etc. But I enjoyed every moment of it. I never felt like I was missing out on my life or anything like that. I left school and became my Grandma's carer full time. My parents were not happy about me doing it as they thought I should be out enjoying my life but what they did not realise was that I was already enjoying it. i was where I wanted to be. Until one night everything changed. I was in bed and started to feel really sick, hot and sweaty and my head was hurting alot. I was sick a few times and then I called my Mam. I told her that I really did not feel well. It was at the time when Meningitus had just really started to get mentioned and everyone was worrying about it so she and my Dad got in the car and came over. My Dad took me to the hospital while my Mam stayed the night at my Grandma's. I was told that I was fine at the hospital and sent home. A couple of days later I was told the news from my Mam that would completely change all of our lives. Her and my Uncle had decided to put my Grandma into a residential care home. I was devestated, I instantly felt like I had failed her. After a couple of weeks we got her into one of the best in Durham. It was a lovely old building and everyone there was lovely. She had her own appartment with bedroom, bathroom and living room on the third floor with beautiful country views. I continued to go and see her every day and I continued to bath her etc as I did not want things to change too much for her. After approx 1 year in there she started to get very aggitated and forgettfull. At first it was just small things but I can always remember the first time she forgot me, that day will stay with me for the rest of my life. It went downhill from there. Once her own funds ran out for her care she was moved rooms down to the ground floor where all she had was an en suite bedroom. we were told it was so they could keep an eye on her but I have my own feelings about that. Within 5 months we were called to a meeting and told that she could no longer stay there as it was a residential home and she required a nursing home. She had started to become violent to the staff. She used to hit them with her walking stick so they had to take it off her and put her in a wheelchair. Within only a couple of months she had forgot how to walk. The day she was moved into the mental health part of the new nursing home I knew that it was the beginning of the end for her. She didn't have a clue who I was or who my Mam was but my Mam's brother who visited every once in a while was the greates thing since slice bread and her face lit up everytime she saw him. She knew exactly who he was. Until this there was never any mention of the word Alzheimer's and I still did not know what it meant or what it was. She started having bad falls which resulted in hospital treatment being given, each time me and my Mam were by her bedside holding her hand. By this time I had a child of my own and the home that she was now in was about a 15 minute drive away and one weekend I decided to spend the hole weekend with my son and not go and see her. She died on the Monday night of a stroke. I will never forgive myself for not seeing her and for not giving her a kiss goodbye the last time I saw her (this was due to the fact that she was having a bad episode so for my own safety I choose not to). Since her death I have learnt alot more about Alzeimer's and what it does. It is the ost common cause of dementia which effects around 417,000 people in the UK. It is a physical disease which effects the brain which leads to the death of brain cells. It is a progressive disease which means that over time the symptoms get worse. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease although there are drugs out there that are available that may slow down the disease. My Grandma was given these drugs but was later taken off them as we were told that 'she is in the later stages now so there is nothing that can be done and the drug is expensive'. Alzheimers is not only hard for the sufferer but also for the hole family involved. It is not something that is mentioned much and not alot of fund raising etc is done. Some people give Alzheimer's the nickname 'the long goodbye' and it is certainly true.
Its a fact, you hear of some dreadful illness, and dismiss it thinking its the sort of thing which happens to other people. I heard a discussion one day on the t.v about alzheimers disease, and like most, didn, t give it a second thought, it was just too awful to contemplate, Well it has happened to my family, not once but twice,and I would like to tell you from the laymans point of view how it has affected us. My Aunt Jean, a very talented and gifted artist, loving Mother of four, with a great sense of humour, and fun, who doted on her grandchildren, sadly was to seccumb to this incurable living hell. At first, it was hardly noticeable, true, she was repeating herself an awful lot, and at times it was like a record because each time I spoke to her she would tell me the same thing over and over again. She also became addicted to scratch cards, and would spend any money she could find on them, she sometimes believed she had won big money and on one occasion actually started wrecking the newsagents shop in the village where she lived, as it happened being a small village the family were known, and my uncle was sent for to calm the situation down. Trouble was at every opportunity as soon as she could get out the house, she would be back buying more, the shop really should have stopped taking her money and let someone know, but they didn,t. She started getting onto the little village bus, and disappearing, she was found miles away, wandering around the seaside resort, a place she uses to go to buy her art supplies. It soon became obvious that she must be watched at all times, as we didnt know what she might do next. In time she forgot how to paint and draw, all her talent was lost, she couldn,t write her own name. she had forgotten how to wash and dress herself, and her husband had to do almost everything for her. The saddest part of all this was her loss of speech, and recognition of any one of her family. she didn,t even give he grandchildren a second glance, and she had loved them so much, she had taught them so much too and to witness this was heartbreaking. Eventually it became apparent Uncle was suffering, although he refused adamantly to have his wife put into residential care, but in the end it just had to be. Whilst Aunt Jean was blissfully oblivious to the heartache her condition was causing us all, she settled in without a bit of bother, and though we visited on a regular basis she never knew who we were. Sadly the home she was in had to close, and she was moved, she hadnt been there very long when she was found with some terrible facial injuries, and bruising to her body, she had been left to sleep on a sofa which was barely big enough for her to stretch her legs, and a doctor hadnt been called to look at her so the family contacted the hospital and had her admitted. She was in a pitifull state, the nursing staff were wonderful and gave my poor Aunt their tender loving care, and she was treated with dignity as she should have been. Auntie passed away, very peacefully a couple of weeks later, and at this point her family took lagal proceedings against the care home. Due to the fact, that there wasnt a witness, to testify just what had happened, the staff stated another client had inflicted her injuries, we had no way of proving otherwise, some recommendations were introduced, but it was too late for Jean. Recently, my Mother, was diagnosed with vascular dementia, and has deteriorated so rapidly, we can,t believe its happening. I know its not the same my Aunts, as its presented a different set of symptoms. My Mother, has for some time repeated things that happened years ago, and we just accepted this, however, after an accident at home last April when she shattered her heel after falling from a stool, we saw a marked difference in her moods, confussion, and repetiveness, she began to be be very suspicious, of everything, and accused us of doing nasty things, she started locking her door, and not answering her phone to anyone, we knew she couldnt get very far on her own due to her injury, but she needed food bringing in and her home needed cleaning. It became apparent, we needed help from the care agencies and social services, again Mother was very reluctant to let them in, she got aggressive and angry if it was suggested she needed help she refused everything that was offered to her, and just couldn,t see how much she really needed it, and was in complete denial We persevered with her with great difficulty, we tried to get her out , if we managed it she forgot she had been anywhere, we had managed to get carers three times a day, 7 days a week, and her CPN managed to get her a place in a day centre once a week, we had also been lucky enough for her to be prescribed Aricept, and her mood gradually changed. The main problems now were, her not wanting to wash and change, thinking all the time that she had already done it, she sometimes missed meals as she also thought she already eaten. Our main worry was her chain smoking, as she finished one cigarette she was lighting another, snd had burnt holes through her clothing she even set her cushion on fire. Last week, thankfully a member of the family was with her, she collapsed and was rushed to hospital, it is not known yet what happened but it may have been an abnormal heart rhythm, it was thought at first she had suffered a mini stroke, as this can occur with vascular dementia but a scan proved otherwise. Why doesn,t someone take her in I can hear you say, well I myself have health issues,with heart problems and have some one to care for me , my siblings also have arthritis and heart trouble, so its not possible at all. We had a meeting in her "best interests" with the mental health team who felt it might be better for her to go into nursing care, this saddens us deeply, we have decided to have her home for another month, just to see if the aricept will make a difference, and after that we will review the situation. Finding a good care home, will be a priority, we owe our poor mum that. she worked hard for us, and has always been there when we needed her, Life can be so very cruel, this dreadful disease takes your personality , your identity and robs you of your mind My big worry is that she doesn,t end her days as poor Jean did.
I know that this is the season to be jolly but it isn't always an option for everyone so I am going to bite the bullet and write what is possibly the most difficult review that I have ever written. I do not intend to go into any medical details here about what Alzheimer's is and how is develops - suffice it to say that it is a degenerative brain disease for which there is no cure. In July 2005 my wonderful dad finally lost his battle with Alzheimer's disease at the age of 81. I have already written a review telling you all about him as a person but now I am going to tell you how the disease affected him and what we did to help him. I am hoping that this might just help to make life a bit easier for someone else in the same position as we were. My dad had always been an easy going sort of man - he needed to be living with my mom, my sister and myself! He was very slow to anger and almost never lost his temper. The first signs that something was wrong showed up when dad started to forget things. At first we all put it down to him getting older but it got worse. He went to see his GP who sent him to the local hospital for some tests. When he went back to his GP he was told - you have Alzheimer's disease take these tablets - and he was given Aricept. In the Midlands this is the only help he got! Aricept is supposed to slow down the development of the disease but as we don't know how he would have been had he not taken it I can't really comment on this. He continued to get worse and it was difficult for mom to look after him on her own as by that time my sister and I had both left home and had our own houses. When he rewired an extension lead in such a way that when mom plugged it in she received a massive electric shock we knew that the time had come for change. By this time dad would have been in his late sixties and mom was 3 years younger. Dave and I had always wanted to live by the sea so we decided to buy a big three storey Victorian house in Llandudno and we had the ground floor converted so that mom and dad could come and live with us. The house had been used as a guest house and we changed the downstairs dining room into an en suite bedroom so that mom and dad had their own lounge, dining room, kitchen and bedroom and Dave and I had the rest of the house, eventually converting one of the first floor bedrooms into a kitchen for us. This meant that I was able to take over the financial running of the house so that mom and dad didn't have to worry about bills. They did insist on paying rent so that they were paying their way! They also helped out with the modernisation of the house as they had the proceeds from their house in the Midlands. As soon as we moved to Llandudno dad was assessed by the local community psychologist and he began to visit the local memory clinic one day a week, which was great for him and for us. At first I was a bit worried as I thought they would all just sit there doing nothing but he came home with stories of discussing items from the news, listening to music and doing exercises. The first week he went they were listening to a CD of Stanley Holloway monologues so he was well happy as this was one of his favourites! At this time I became dad's full time carer. So every Monday dad would go off to his 'club' and mom and I would have a day off. Mom was also beginning to deteriorate at this stage as she had Vascular Dementia so I gradually took more stress off her. For example I took over all the tablets that they both had to take by this time. I dispensed them and reordered them so that was another worry taken away so that they could enjoy one another's company more. Initially dad wasn't too bad and they were able to get out and about. They got their free bus passes and they were out most days. Funnily enough dad had always had a very good sense of direction and he never lost this. When we were children we all used to enjoy doing jigsaws so we started this hobby again. Mom and dad's dining room got to be known as the jigsaw room as there was always one on the table. The social worker said she thought it was a great idea and she said she would pass it on to others! It meant that there was always a way for me to distract dad when he was getting on mom's nerves - she was never known for her patience with him! When she was cooking their lunch I would go down and sit with dad at the jigsaw and as that room adjoined the kitchen I could chat to mom as well. Dad could still help by peeling the vegetables but by this time he had to be told what to do and given the relevant tools for the job. I remember mom asking him to pour out a drink to have with their lunch - she meant fruit juice or squash - he poured out cooking oil, bless him! As he got worse he started to go to the memory clinic for respite care for one week in every five which gave mom and me a break. The support that we got in Llandudno was really good, certainly much better than when we were in the Midlands! We were invited to the memory clinic every few months for a meeting to see if there was anything more that we needed help with and for them to tell us how dad was progressing as he was continually assessed when he was there. One thing we were told was that people with Alzheimer's tend to have the same character traits that they have always had but that the disease magnifies them. We had seen people become quite violent with Alzheimer's but luckily this didn't happen with dad as he had always been so easy going he tended to stay that way - well most of the time anyway! One of dad's favourite things was when Dave took us all out for a drive in the mountains - he loved the scenery and this could calm him down if he was having a day when he was agitated. Dad missed his garden and since we had a car park at the back of the house we fenced it off, had it paved and built some raised flower beds. Dad used to 'help' us and we grew runner beans and tomatoes which he loved doing. He used to go out every day with his sweeping brush and sweep the front path mainly because he could stop and chat to people as they walked past. He used to love doing this and I always used to make a fuss of how smart it looked. As I said at first he and mom would go out for the day on the bus and have a walk somewhere but eventually it got the point that he couldn't even go on the bus into town without getting agitated. It eventually got to the point when we couldn't let him go out on his own as we would never know where he was so we had to lock the door - he wasn't happy about that! He did 'escape' once or twice and we had to split up and search the area for him. He could still manage a walk round the block to see the sea and one of us was always ready to go for a walk with him. We were still doing our jigsaws but he did get to the point where, if the piece fitted, he would put it in. It didn't matter whether it went with the rest of the picture or not as long as it fitted! We used to wait until he wasn't looking and whip the wrong pieces back out again! Towards the end of his life he occasionally became quite cross with me when I had to stop him doing things, which was very unlike my dad. Luckily I could usually distinguish between the disease and the patient and not get too upset. Sadly mom couldn't do this and used to shout at him when he got mixed up and when I reminded her he was ill she wouldn't believe that he didn't have control over what he said and did. I suppose that was her illness taking hold. Sometimes I had to intervene in arguments and calm dad down and then try and reason with mom. That was difficult and heartbreaking at times. Dad continued to deteriorate. He could dress himself but he needed someone to tell him which order to put things on or he would end up with his vest on over his shirt for example. He occasionally had a little accident with his waterworks but generally he could remember to go to the toilet even though he needed someone to tell him where it was. There were one or two messy incidents in the bathroom but I won't go into detail. I found that the best thing to do was to reassure him and then forget the incident as he would forget it anyway! He got that he just couldn't settle to do anything not even just sitting watching TV. He wandered around the house all the time so I just used to walk round with him and chat about things to try and keep him occupied. He still wanted to help us with the work on the house and we tried to find little easy jobs that he could do. He had always done his own DIY and he thought he could still do things that he obviously couldn't so he needed to be watched! Dave and I got married in April of 2005 by which time dad could barely make sense when he tried to hold a conversation. My sister's then boyfriend walked me down the aisle and made the speech at the wedding on dad's behalf. The strange thing was that dad seemed almost normal on that day. He told me how lovely I looked in my wedding dress before we went to the church and he was winking at me from his seat as we signed the register at the front of the church. The people at the memory clinic had rung and told me beforehand that they would keep an emergency bed just in case it was all too much for him and he had to go in and at about 7.30pm he knew himself that he needed to be there. Dave took him in and he got excited wanting to tell them all about his day! Bless him. Sadly whilst we were on honeymoon he fell and hit his head and was admitted to hospital. He remained there for three months and finally died there. It was heartbreaking to go and visit him. He couldn't eat properly and was surviving on special vitamin packed yoghurts and jellies, which I sometimes fed to him. We took a little CD player in for him and he would listen to his favourite CD's as he still loved his music. All the nurses loved him and were all surprised each time they came on shift that he was still there as they expected him to pass away quite quickly, especially as he contracted pneumonia twice in hospital and twice he recovered from it! He couldn't talk to make sense at all by this time but we still got his trademark wink when we went to visit. During all this one day he suddenly turned to me and said 'How are you?' and I said 'Fine thanks dad - how are you?' and he told me he was OK and then he went back to being unintelligible. Weird! I did have the chance to sit and talk to him one day on my own. I told him that I was so proud and happy that he was my dad and I couldn't have picked a better one if I had been able to choose for myself. I promised that I would look after mom for him and I told him how much I loved him. At least when the end finally came I was glad that I had been able to say my goodbyes. For the last week of his life he seemed to give up and he just lay there apparently waiting to die. He died in July of 2005 and I still miss him like crazy, but I am glad that he lived with us for the last years of his life as I did have some quality time with him even if he did make me want to scream sometimes. So there you are then and yes this was one of the most difficult reviews that I have ever written. If I have helped someone else in the same situation then it was worth it. If anyone has any questions I will be very happy to help if I can. I appreciated all the help that I could get and will be very happy to pass that on if I can. If you do know someone who is caring for an Alzheimer's sufferer do be there for them. Don't tell them to go away for a break or to get out and join clubs - they have to stay with their 'patient' - they can't go off and leave them! It was a most difficult time for me but I am so glad that I was able to do it. This review has ended up being very long - I do apologise and forgive you if you have skimmed it! God bless you dad and thank you for all you did for me.
I remember the last time my grandmother really spoke to me. I was 8 years old and about to board the train home to London from Manchester. " I love you and I really miss you, you know?" she said with tears in her eyes, holding my face in her hands. I was too young to understand what provoked this sudden sentimentality. However, when I travelled with my mother to visit her again 4 months later, it was plain that she did not recognise me at all. I now realise that moment at the train station was my grandmother saying goodbye to me. The poor lady knew that she was deteriorating fast and that by the time I was there, her mind would be gone. My Nan (as I shall refer to her henceforth) had suffered a slow decline into full Alzheimer's, for years we had almost treated her forgetfulness and mistakes in a light hearted manner. However, soon after she lost the ability to express herself, My grandfather (who was ill himself) had to be persuaded to let her be put into a hospice. From this point in time my grandfather visited his wife everyday , from morning until evening, even when she was physically unrecognisable and had completely lost all human dignity and needed to be cleaned and fed much like a baby. She existed in this difficult state for 5 years until she finally and mercifully passed away. As the youngest of 6 grandchildren, I did not visit my Nan often. However, at least three or four times a year I would venture into the hospice even if only for half an hour. With the hindsight of an adult, I am very glad that I was afforded the opportunity to be there for her in some small way, especially considering the devotion of my grandfather. I also think it is important that such issues as death and illness are not totally hidden from children but explained in a gentle way. At times it could be a painful and sometimes a slightly scary experience going into the hospice. Seeing my Nan was not so terrible as I knew the situation and was kept updated on her condition. However potential interaction with the other residents could be daunting. On a few occasions we arrived to find out that my Nan had thrown a bowl of bananas at somebody, or destroyed the christmas tree or something equally daft, but it was always presented to me in a very black and white manner by my mother. Perhaps it would have been harder if I were not a child, seeing my Nan in this dormant state. I was encouraged not to become upset as she was in essence not the same person any more. However, on a couple of memorable occasions there was a flicker of recognition in her eyes when she saw me. One time she even asked my mother "Well, how is she?", it was the first thing she had said all week and meant something to me even if it was perhaps accidental. This once wonderful, warm lady was now a seemingly lost spirit trapped in a living corpse. I certainly do not understand the current theories on what occurs in the mind of an advanced Alzheimer's sufferer. Nevertheless, perhaps some part of her knew that I was present. I always secretly wondered if there was still some awareness hidden behind the vacant facade, in a way I also hoped for her sake that there was not. If her Catholic beliefs are correct, maybe she is up there now glad that I am even writing this. My older brother was sitting next to my Nan when she died and I know that he found this comforting as we finally were allowed to come to terms with our loss. There are theories that Alzheimer's is hereditary. I know that my great grandmother and aunt both died from it. Should my mother suffer the same end it, I would certainly be encouraging my son to visit the woman who loves him so much, even if only once in a while.
As we get older there are many disabling diseases which affect us, some affect our bodies and others our minds. Some can kill us instantly while others attack us slowly and progressively. This is about one of the later which unfortunately is one of the diseases which is very rarely talked about in everyday society but one which affects many thousands of people worldwide every year. This disease is Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is a brain degeneration disease which was discovered in 1906 by a German physician by the name of Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Although Alzheimer's is called a disease it is actually a dementia. A dementia is defined as a brain disorder that prevents the person with the disorder from carrying out everyday tasks. Alzheimer's starts with a mild memory loss and unfortunately ends in severe brain damage. Alzheimer's suffers may experience symptoms ranging from asking the same questions again and again, through to becoming disorientated in places, time or around once familiar people (even their own face!), they can also get to a stage where they are neglecting their own health, hygiene, personal safety and nutrition. Different people will deteriorate at different rates. Once diagnosed people whom have Alzheimer?s usually live for a further 8-10 years, depending on at what stage the disease is diagnosed at, however it is not unusual for a person with Alzheimer's to live up to 20 years after diagnosis. This all depends on the speed of de-generation due to the disease as this is not constant for all sufferers. There are two methods of describing the stages of Alzheimers, the seven stage and the three stage. I'm going to use the three stage to describe Alzheimer's and my Alzheimer's experiences? Stage 1. Suffers will have less energy and spontaneity, those around the sufferer may notice that minor mood swings and mood swings. Other symptoms exhibited ar e slight memory loss, confusion and poor judgment on new tasks, the sufferer preferring to partake in familiar practices to learning new. Stage 2. Sufferers may experience difficulty in completing more complex tasks, even those tasks which the sufferer may have completed thousands of times. Sufferers speech and understanding become slower and they may loose their train of thought mid sentence. Distance events will still be clear but recent events are difficult to remember or recall and some time making new memories become difficult. As Alzheimer's progresses sufferers are unable to comprehend both where they are and the time of day. Sufferers may not recognize familiar faces and can become depressed. Those closest may have to repeat instructions as they are no longer recognized or are instantly forgotten. Stage 3. This is the worst part of the disease, where sufferers cannot recognize those around them. Bodily functions become severely impaired and they may not be able to perform the most simple functions such as chewing and even swallowing. As Alzheimer's reaches its final progression sufferers become vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. Unfortunately the end is close as once Alzheimer's progresses to this level death is not to far away. So we know the stages of the disease but how does Alzheimer?s affect the brain? How does Alzheimer's affect the brain? In as simple terms as possible, Alzheimer?s is caused by a loss of nerve cells within the brain, principally the cerebral cortex. Basically the brain is dying! How do you get Alzheimer's? Alzheimer?s is in the main a hereditary disease and one on ten of people over the age of 65 will end up with Alzheimer's in one form or another. The older you become the greater the risk of Alzheimer's, this rises to almost half of over 85 year olds. However not everybody with a genetic propensity to A lzhei mer's will contract the disease. Is there a cure? No there isn't. The idea that damaged brain cells can be repaired or replaced is completely impossible at this time, as medical science is unable to do this. There are several drugs on the market which can temporarily relieve some of the symptoms of the disease. For mild to moderate there are three drugs sold under the names of Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl and these are called cholinesterase inhibitors and are basically insecticides that inhibit an enzyme found in all animals which regulate nerve impulses. For symptoms of moderate-severe to severe of altzheimers a drug called Exiba. However as this is a new drug there is little or no information on this drug available on the internet. Perhaps you're wondering why I have such a vested interest in Alzheimer's? The answer to this is three fold and I'll get to this point in a moment. First let me tell you how I know so much about Alzheimer's. One of my jobs was for a marketing company who specialized in medical and pharmaceutical products and companies. One of my main duties at this company was to maintain the Alzheimer's insights website. Alzheimer's insights, was a medical journal dedicated purely to Alzheimer's study, diagnosis and treatment. However it ceased publication in April 2002. Over the years I have read a great deal of information about this disease and now as I get older this disease is beginning to affect the lives of a few of my friends and family I feel the need to put pen to paper, or at the least finger to keyboard and inform others of my knowledge of this disease and my experiences of Alzheimer's. William. (Stage 1) Bill is one of my best friends and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in March of 2003. Although he has been diagnosed he is still a very active 71 year old, both mentally and physically. However s ome days A lzheimer's takes its toll on this superbly witty and entertaining man, and although he is fully aware of what's going on around him most of the time he occasionally lapses into what he calls a senior moment, where he cant remember what he's doing or cant remember what we where talking about. Sometimes he asks the same question time after time after time?. The worst things for Bill is that once he was diagnosed he lost his driving license and sometimes he becomes depressed especially as he?s been very mentally active throughout his life. I've watched him paint, he likes painting oil paintings and is really very good, but sometimes he forgets what the subject he's painting is. This is compounded by having more than one painting going at a time. Lillian (Stage 2) I must admit that I absolutely love this old lady, I have know her for many a year and watching her deteriorate over the past 4 years with Alzheimer's. Lillian is now 81 and up until a few years ago she was an extremely active old lady, touring all over the world, even taking a walking holiday in the Rockie mountains in 1998, a walking holiday in the Andies in 1997 and a driving holiday in the Australia outback in 1995. For an old lady she was extremely active, she even walked the length of the pennies at 69 years of age! However, things are now completely different and she can't do anything or go anywhere on her own. Her husband, whom is 10 years younger than her, is now her constant guardian. Most of the time he only has to help her remember things, or he endlessly repeats answers to questions she asks again and again. But some times she will forget where she is or who others around her are, even if they are people she has known for many years. Her long term memory is still excellent and she will tell you about her life during and after the war and what she did during the war, she cant remember that she has alrea dy told you the same stories hundreds of times but she can remember things she has done long ago. It's her short term memory which has been destroyed by Alzheimer's. She doesn't even remember going to Canada only 5 years ago. All this sometimes can become very confusing for her because she knows she has been to these places but she can't remember traveling to them or visiting them. An example is that she had been to Japan years ago, and my wife asked her "Where did you visit in Japan"? Lillian couldn't remember, she knew she'd been to Japan but didn't know where in Japan. Even when her husband reminded her, she questioned him "Are you sure we went there" I don't remember that!? To me this is quite distressing but to Lillian she hasn't a care in the world. She has progressively gotten worse over the past year and on our last visit to her house in November, she forgot who we where. She knew, she knew us but couldn't remember our names or where she knew us from, and she then proceeded to show us round the house, 3 times. Once when we arrived, then again when we came inside from the back garden and again as we went to leave. My Grandad (Stage 3) When my granddad died he was not a well man. As well as having Stage 3 Alzheimer's he also had Parkinson's disease at quite an advanced stage and the poor man just used to shake all the time. My granddads Alzheimer's was pretty progressed and he had trouble doing anything. Even walking and talking couldn't be done without assistance from others and this was compounded by having Parkinson's as well. He couldn't remember who we where, even my mum and aunties and uncles. His own children! He also had real problems sleeping and it could be said that he was part narcoleptic and sometimes would fall asleep without any notice, even while being fed. When my granddad died he was unable to communicate w ith anyone, however it wasn't the Alzheimers disease which he died from. Caring Although I have only limited knowledge of caring for somebody with Alzheimer's, especially those with a progressed version of the disease, I must say that having seen my Grandmother, my mother and my auntie struggle to look after my granddad as a child I would never assume this is an easy task. I know that it too three people to look after my granddad and I have every sympathy for those caring for Alzheimer's sufferers. Not just the physical effort but the mental effort which is required to look after a loved one who has for all intense purposes has regressed mentally. When we have Lillian and her husband to visit, I am always impressed with the restraint he shows when she has a more severe episode and constantly asks the same question over and over again. For further information on Alzheimer's, there are a number of resources on the internet, some of which I have included below. » Alzheimers Association - http://www.alz.org/ » Alzheimer's Disease Education & Referral Center - ADEAR ? http://www.alzheimers.org » Alzheimers Society UK ? http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ » Alzheimers Disease international ? http://www.alz.co.uk » Journal of Alzheimer's Disease ? http://www.j-alz.com » Alzheimers research trust ? http://www.alzheimers-research.org.uk » Alzheimers magazine online - http://www.alzheimer-insights.com
My old Auntie is now in a nursing home and she has Alzheimer?s. It is so sad. She is 89 years old. It all started about a year ago (well she knew her memory was going before that) but she realized she would have to go into a home eventually as she was forgetting how to do everyday things like using the electric kettle and make a meal. She has been in the home for a year now and she still recognises myself and Ross but she is living in the past and thinks her husband who died in 1966 is still here I go to visit her every week and I get her to laugh and we talk about old times. She now wants to sleep the entire time and she is slipping away from us. I am a bit under the weather (with the flu) at the moment and I am feeling a bit sentimental so I thought I would write a wee poem for her Alzheimer?s Please stop and think Because as we get old We don?t always remember The things we are told We remember the stories Of times that have passed And especially the good things As we want them to last But something you said at the start of the day Oh! What was that? What did you say? You really don?t want me To store every thought There must be some things Even you have forgot Where did I come from? Where did I go? I?m getting upset As my brain it?s too slow I was a Mum with two kids on the go I?m here in this home now Don?t know who I am Don?t know if my name is Mary or Nan But please do remember And please always care As the person I was Is still in here somewhere Margaretxx
Firstly let me tell you what I do. I'm a Mental Health Worker, I work for the Community Mental Health Team for the Elderly. Mental Health? I hear you say, isn't that for mad people, schizophrenics, etc.? Actually no. Dementia is a neurological condition affecting the physical and mental well being of a person, hence, its the Mental Health Teams that get involved. Alzheimer's is a dementing condition, but its by no means the only form of dementia, I'll take you through the different types. Alzheimer's - the most common form of dementia, affecting around a half a million people in the UK. Symptoms include confusion, forgetfulness, mood swings, withdrawal, problems communicating. What happens is that the brain cells die and progressively worsens. Hence every case of Alzheimer's is different, no two cases will be the same, nobody knows what causes it and there is no cure although drugs like Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl are used to stabilise the symptoms of the disease. A new drug called Memantine is about to be licensed, this is hoped to assist in stabilising advanced dementia. * Case Study John, 84. Progressive Alzheimer's, very short term memory. He can get very confused and agitated if taken out of his everyday surrounding. He is also prone to wandering. John has a huge amount of support from his family, social and health services. Without this he would have to be placed in an Elderly Mentally Ill people home for his own safety. Multi-Infarct or Vascular Dementia - This is caused by the oxygen supply to the brain failing, thus causing brain cells to die. This usually happens either suddenly following a stroke or over time with a series of small strokes. The symptoms are much the same as Alzheimer's but different medication must be used. There may also be other problems associated with strokes, loss of mobility, etc. *Case Study Reg, 88 years old had suffered a series of strokes and ha s become more and more confused, He now has mobility problems associated with his strokes, he would probably be most suitable for residential care. But with the right support, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy he could possibly stay at home. Lewy-Body Syndrome - Far less common than the other types of dementia. Lewy-Body occurs when abnormal brain cells are distributed throughout the brain, It can occur on its own , but also with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. The symptoms include cognitive impairment, depression, hallucinations, symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Perhaps most upsetting is that periods of lucidity can occur when lessens as the Dementia progresses, *Case Study George, 74 resides in a residential home and has Parkinsonian symptoms, i.e. uncontrollable shaking of the body. He has become very aggressive and very confused. George has periods of lucidity which can lead him to become very upset. He is not likely to be able to return home and is likely to be treated with anti-psychotic drugs and maybe sedation. Korsakoff Syndrome - Primarily caused by alcohol abuse, the alcohol not only affects the liver but literally rots the frontal lobes. Once this happens there is no cure. *Case Study Edna, 68 has drunk heavily for 20 years, her average is 2-3 bottles of wine a night with even more bingeing over the weekend. During really bad episodes she drinks pints of neat Martini. Edna is a medical miracle, she should have died years ago. But apart from the frontal lobe damage other health issues could be attributed to old age, Good Lord, this lady got massive ulcers on her legs which in many people would have lead to septicaemia and death. But Edna, even though her blood is probably 60% alcohol managed to recover! Edna is in complete denial of her alcoholism. She is sectioned because of abusive and violent behaviours, she detoxes, comes out of hospital and the whole cycle starts again. Every visit I'm not sure if she will be sober or completely drunk on the floor in a pool of her own urine. If she refuses detox treatment she just takes thiamine and vitamins to try and keep the rest of her organs working. The only solution for curing Ednas alcohol I to die, her drinking is her life choice and sad as it may seem I have no intention of forcing her to change that. So you have the diagnosis, it could be any of the above but its called dementia. A word many people try to avoid, preferring 'muddled' or forgetful' You may hear some professional use the term 'cognitive impairment', it all boils down to the same thing. So how do you deal with it, not the medical side but holistically? Many carers feel lost, unsure of what to do, after all they don't teach you Dementia 101 at school! But for anyone who comes into contact with people with dementia you may find the following useful. The important thing to remember is that the person has not become a faceless being, they're still your mum, dad, sibling or even your child. Each person is an individual with different experiences and needs, Each person is affected in a different way and everyone reacts to their dementia is a different way. One of the most difficult things is communication. People with dementia often lose their language skills, this gets worse as the dementia progresses. Although it can be frustrating learn to lister, Listen carefully and encourage them. If you cannot understand them or they are substituting words ask them to explain it differently, If they are struggling don't finish the sentence for them. Let them finish and them check back with them to make sure you have it right. Of course you could find it difficult to get their attention in the first place. Importantly get their attention before you start to communicate, make sure they can see you clearly. Make eye contact to ensure they focus on you and try to minimise any other noise around you. Body language is also important, yours and theirs, Try to relax, it shows the person you are talking to that you are giving your full attention to them. And of course you can also pick up on how the client is feeling. Speaking, of course you just open your mouth and talk, don't you? Well no. The person needs longer to process information, speak slowly, clearly and calmly. Direct question may not work, but if you have to use them try one that only require yes and no answers. Although it sounds cruel limit the choices that the person is able to say, in order that the person does not become frustrated. If the person doesn't understand don't keep repeating yourself, phrase the question differently. See that's not so hard is it? RESPECT How much louder is it possible to say this? Of course big red letters would be useful but unfortunately are not supplied. Do you remember when you were growing up and people would talk to you like you were a little kid? How angry and frustrated that made you feel? So how do you think a person who may have fought in a war, raised children, been married for 50+ years would feel. But they have dementia right, you have to talk to them like that, to make them understand. Yes, simpler question, but they aren't idiots. Too many times I have gone into residential homes and heard the carers make comments like 'now don't be a naughty girl, eat all your food and I'll put the telly on for you' 'Now you must behave or something bad will happen'. I've even heard families say this. A quick example of a gentleman that I was waiting with whilst a bed at an assessment unit was being arranged. He was hearing voices, he was having hallucination, didn't know who his wife was and at one point wandered off, hence me running down to the shops too try and persuade him to come back (which I did.) Then his daughter and son in law came in, as I was leaving they tur ned to him and said 'now you should apologise for all the mischief you have caused to this nice young lady, you have played her up no end and been very naughty' My shocked reaction was immediately disbelief, but instead of saying something rude to the family, I turned to the gentleman in question and said, no, that's quite all right Jim, we just had a little walk to the shops and a bit of a chat, everything's ok. Yes, he may not have been able to fully understand what I said, but he could see that I was not angry with him and this settled him. I showed him respect, the man may have been seeing rabbits in the road but there was no way I was going to be rude to him, or put him down. I have come to realise that we really do not show enough respect to the elders in our community. This is including culture, religion, eating, not talking over the person as if they were not there, offering choice, respecting privacy and making the person feel valued. If that's too difficult for you to do then as far as I am concerned you are abusing your position as a health care professional, if you are a family carer there are loads of info to help you with communication and any outside help you may need. Of course you would want the above, and if you do remember to show it too everyone else. Dementia is frightening, it still scares me after 6 months in this job, your mortality and the possibility that you could be like that when you are older is scary beyond belief. Please don't be frightened to ask for help if you cant cope, health care professionals know that it isn't an easy task, we are there to support, not condemn.There are many services available, Day Centres, Mobile Meals, Sitting Services, Community Psychiatric Nurses and more, many of these can be provided by Health and Social Services. But with more education, understanding and more facilities we may be able to realise those with the disease as valuable members of society and may be it wont be so scary. Useful contacts: Your local Community Mental Health Team (these can be reached through Social Services, Day Hospitals and GP's. The Alzheimer's Society 0845 300 0336. Loads of info and care. Dementia voice. These all hold lots of information and can tell you about support groups in your area. Thank you for reading this massively long opinion, its taken ages to write, but I had to get it off my chest eventually!!
I grew up with an understanding of dementia as my maternal Grandmother had succumbed to it at a relatively young age. Mercifully, she had other health problems and passed away before she became totally non- compus mentis.She died the week my 'O' levels started and it was all very sad. We then got on with our lives, as you do, and the memories of a very confused lady all but disappeared for a while. My mother was very badly affected though, and had found the loss of her Mother very difficult. She felt that her Mum had been dead to her from the time dementia took over. My sister and I were quite young and did not really understand how she felt. As the years passed by Mum began to become increasingly scared that it would happen to her too. To be honest, as we got older it really got on our nerves and my father, sister and I would often get together for a beer and have a good old whinge about it! This probably sounds very harsh, but everytime she mislaid her keys or other trivial thing which she forgot she would wail " I am turning into Elsie". Elsie was my grandma. We would do our best to allay her fears. We told her everybody forgets things. I personally have lost keys all my life! I mislay things frequently. We patiently explained all this to our mother . We felt she was becoming obsessed with getting alzheimers or some other form of dementia.This was all especially difficult for my sister as her father in law did have alzheimers, and very badly at that. For a period of years it became a topic of family amusement. It was the only way we could cope. Then, inevitably it happened. My father phoned and said that there was something wrong with Mum and that she was to have extensive tests in two separate hospitals.There was a sudden and obvious change. She was sometimes rather vacant, a trait we had often seen in our grandmother.The forgetfulness developed and she frequently repeated herself.She continually wails th at she has turned into her mother. A brain scan revealed that Mum had had several mini-strokes. These had caused a dementia like disease very akin to alzheimers. We were all very upset. We knew roughly what to expect as we had trodden this path before. The progression can vary from person to person and each stage is classified from level 1 to level 4. There are drugs that can be used to try to slow down the progress but they are rather experimental. We were offered the choice and felt there was nothing to lose in Mum taking them. My mother is a top professional jazz trumpeter, a real career type.All of a sudden she could not even remember how to mash potato- a real speciality of hers. She was unable to perform fairly straightforward tasks and my father had to take her driving license away from her. This was a sad moment for all of us but we didn't dare trust her on the road.He sent it back to the DVLA with a very heavy heart. Interestingly, her music for the first two years was not in the least affected. She could still work provided Dad went and got her organised. He is in the same business so quite often he would be on the same job. More recently her sight reading skills have slightly deteriorated although she can still do very well by ear.It seems that that part of her memory is holding up quite well, it is all on auto pilot. With dementia the short term memory is usually quite badly affected. Mum asks the same question sometimes every two or three minutes over a protracted length of time. She genuinely wants to know the answer. This tries the patience of a saint! You have to repeatedly answer and hope that you sound interested and have to imagine it is the first time you have answered it. Sometimes we snap, after all we are only human, and say "we have just told you that three times!" Fortunately we manage to control our frustration the majority of the time.She also now has a very distorte d long term memory. She tells stories that are very wonky. I know poor Dad finds this the most difficult to cope with.She has even forgotten where they first met and where they got married. It must be so tough for him. Before she became ill my mother was a very strong and domineering woman. She had bullied me most of my life and been oh so critical. Even as an adult with children of my own I had had an underlying fear of incurring her wrath. She could be singularly unpleasant if push came to shove. My relationship with her was not great, although I loved her, of course. As the illness progressed it was interesting to see this side of her nature totally disappear. She became nice and much kinder. It was as though she had forgotten her "nasty" side. Like her mother before her, and her daughter (me) Mum has heart problems. She is on vast amounts of medication. Eighteen months ago she had a nasty fall and bashed her head and broke her arm. It meant a stay in hospital as the arm needed an op- the bone was out through the skin. Eugh! She had to be taken off her Warfarin before they could operate. The lump on her head was the size of my fist and remained there for nearly 10 months. Whilst in hospital she picked up a killer bug and nearly died three times. She also had major stomach surgery. In the end she stayed in hospital for three months, all for a broken arm. This was the start of her deterioration. She was in isolation for a lot of the time and nobody had enough time to sit with her to keep her mind stimulated. She had been doing crossword puzzles before the accident as we were keen to keep her brain switched on as much as possible. Now, because of her arm she could not write. We all took it in turns to write the answers in but it made her really frustrated. Miraculously she recovered. The spell in hospital alerted the medics to the difficult task my father faced and Mum was assigned a community psychiatric nurse. I th ink he was to give Dad support as much as anything else. Sadly, the nurse had a mental breakdown, what an irony!Mum then slipped through the net and we were coping on our own. We kept asking for help but I guess there were people more in need then ourselves at the time. Last year she became more confused. We took her to a big band concert and in the interval she kept introducing me to people as my Godmother. My God mother is in her seventies and I am in my early forties so I was a bit despondent, it must be said! My Dad was playing in the concert so he did not witness all this. I told him afterwards that she did not know who I was and he looked totally distraught. He took her to one side and explained that I was her daughter. Things seemed to come back a bit then and she remembered me. It was a scary moment, a premonition of worse to come. After that my younger sister was on the phone relentlessly trying to get help for Mum and some support for Dad. At last! A new community nurse.She wanted Mum to join a "dementia" club at a local health centre. The problem with stage 1/2 dementia is that the patient has spells when they are reasonably lucid. Mum took grave exception to the idea of a "dementia club". I can't honestly say I blame her.So, the idea was put on the back burner. We spoke to the nurse as we were worried about the strain on our father. I do not live locally and wish I could help more.Eventually a plot was hatched- a cunning plan. The nurse suggested to Mum that there was an old persons club who were desperately in need of a pianist/singer who could entertain them once a week with old nostalgic songs from the war and the like. Mum fell for this hook line and sinker.So, once a week she goes off for the morning to play at "the over 60's club". Everynow and again she moans that they don't pay her, but we tell her it is for charity. This seems a good solution. My father's sanity is kept by having one morning a week to himself. Next week she is going for another brain scan to see how things are progressing. As a family we have had to learn to adjust to our mother/wife /grandmother turning into a stranger. We have already lost the Mother we had and gradually adjust to the ever present changes. We know we have worse to face and I hope she loses no further dignity. We also have to face the 50% chance that we will also develop the disease. My GP is in the same position and because he understands has told us, off the record, that by the time we might get it there will be something to help us. My Mum wasted years of her life living in fear of the disease striking. My sister and I are determined not to. It is hard for her as her five year old daughter is at extreme risk having two grandparents with it. I feel for her sometimes. As a mother it must be terrifying.We all live in hope of a treatment or cure.We lost the mother we grew up with some time ago. We now have learned to love and accept a different mother. This has perhaps been the strangest of all. Alzheimers/dementia is a cruel disease. It takes away your loved one long before their body leaves you.It tests your patience to the limit. I will not lie to you, it is a tough experience. After writing this I am going to London to visit her in hospital where she is, yet again! We have found the Alzheimers Association to be of great support. Also, push your GP for support if you are coping in a similar situation. There is help out there, and you will probably need it!
I was talking about my aunt with my parents a little while ago, and mentioned her dodgy memory. “She wasn’t always like that you know”, was the response that came back at me. This is strange, because for as long as I can remember, my aunt has been forgetting. She would consistently turn up to birthdays a day late, but she would always turn up, that was until…. I will continue my tale in just a second, but first I wanted to tell you all why I have decided to write this opinion. I wanted to share my memories with my aunt with you, and give you a flavour of what can happen to a person who has developed Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t plan to go into the medical ins and outs, and cover every single little sign and symptom of it’s onset and diagnosis (although stranger things have happened), I just want to share with you my own and my family’s experiences. So, back to the story… My aunt got more forgetful and it became clear something was wrong. No one really knew for sure what it was, but the medically educated among us (mostly my mother and one of my uncles) could have a good guess as to what the problem could be. Arguments ensued over the coming months and years as to what could be done about my aunt’s condition and who was making it worse or better. I’m not sure when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I know that when it was, it came of no surprise. Birthdays weren’t the only thing she began to forget. She would go to social gatherings, driving down in her car and forgetting that she took it and so starting to walk home before someone would point it out to her. At the same social gatherings, she would go to the supermarket and, once again, try to go home afterwards when she had left her things in the community centre with her friends. All this was very amusing, we knew she couldn’t help it, and we didn’t make a big ‘thing’ out of it, but my poor aunt was obviously getting embarrassed and frustrated, and this wasn’t helped by other members of the family who did give her a hard time. Then she started to forget people. You would introduce her to someone, and it was likely that she wouldn’t remember them the next time you saw her, but this wasn’t a huge problem, and she used to be the first to make an embarrassed joke about it. She stopped remembering all but a few birthday’s, was unable to drive her car any more because she was constantly getting lost around roads she had driven most of her life and required more care at home to make sure she didn’t leave chip pans and ovens on by mistake. Then one night EVERYTHING changed. I’m sure it was a more gradual transition than this, but one morning my mum told me that my aunt had been taken to a psychiatric hospital because she had had ‘an episode’ during the night. My aunt was incredibly fastidious and this became almost an obsession during her illness. If her husband changed the sheets on the bed, she would rip them off again and do them herself. This one night, she forgot who he was completely. She was very aggressive and physically violent towards him. She began talking of a man he had never known before making threats like ‘if you don’t let me leave so-and-so won’t be happy’. Her husband managed to calm her down enough to allow him to phone a taxi, when in fact he phoned their daughter who instinctively knew there was something wrong and came right over. Later a doctor was called and the admission to the psychiatric hospital was eventually made with her agreement. Had she not agreed, the doctor said he would commit her anyway, probably under the mental health act. My tiny, grey aunt who wouldn’t hurt a mouse underwent further transformations. Over the following months, my aunt who wouldn’t normally hurt a fly and didn’t even look capable, actually broke another patients nose! Apparently, the looks she gave some people were pure evil, and often she couldn’t maintain a conversation, getting up agitatedly and wandering around or just turning away from people. She would clean with pretend cleaning cloths, put things straight and generally tidy whatever she could. She could no longer control her bodily functions, in that she knew that she was uncomfortable, and there was something she needed to do, but she didn’t quite know what resorting to the behaviour of young children when they are bursting to go to the toilet. Her mind seemed to have been set back many years as she talked of people who’s hair she had cut that day, when in fact she hadn’t cut hair for years and of people who used to live near by in the days of her parents but who had long passed away or moved on. Things got worse and one of my cousins cried on the day she visited, as my aunt didn’t recognise her at all. Conversations were now largely impossible as not only did she not say much, have the ability to comprehend she also didn’t have the necessary social skills to cope with the task (i.e. looking someway towards the person you are conversing with, not getting up and walking away mid-sentence). Eventually she was moved to a nursing home and it was here that things started to look up a little. My aunt was happy. She was allowed to clean whatever she wanted (even in the kitchen!) and was given the necessary equipment to do this. She went on trips with the other residents and the change was apparently tremendous. Then one day her daughter went to see her and mentioned that one of her friends from the social group (mentioned earlier) had been to see her. Her daughter asked her who this visitor was, and she actually remembered this lady’s name and asked a question about her visit, showing she also remembered a little about her relationship with the visitor. A glimmer of hope was seen f or the first time in ages, which makes what happened next all the more hard to understand. Last Saturday night (14th July) my aunt was found collapsed on the floor with a very weak pulse. The doctor was called, but she was pronounced dead on his arrival. In some ways, this was a tragic loss considering the signs of hope, but on the other hand, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before things got even worse. She had already become a shadow of her former self and almost unrecognisable in personality. She seemed more like a stranger to those who visited her, and I’m sure the whole experience must have been very difficult. I never saw her in the latter stages of her illness, in either the psychiatric unit or the nursing home as I was warned that it wasn’t a pleasant experience and that she probably wouldn’t know who I was, let alone appreciate my being there. I don’t think I would have liked to see her like that! Instead I just think of the way she was, her humorous ways and remember the times she used to baby-sit for my brother and I. I’m upset at her loss, but on some levels it was a release, and she died at a time when she seemed most happy, had a dignified death and some level of quality of life during her last weeks. I hope she is now at peace, and happy.
When we celebrated my father's 80th birthday in July 1992, he was in reasonable health. During the previous ten years he had had two fairly mild strokes and a minor heart attack, but recovered well from each. Nevertheless old age was catching up with short-term loss of memory, increasing absent-mindedness, and a desire to argue for the sake of it. Most of all he tended to go out alone for walks, exhausting himself too quickly, and had to be brought home protesting by anxious neighbours who had recognised him. Two years later he had a fall in the kitchen, broke his hip, was admitted to hospital and operated on within 48 hours. But while he was there, his mental condition soon deteriorated. Other members and friends thought it was as a result of anaesthetic or other drugs. Whether it was that, a sudden acceleration of the ageing process, an adverse reaction to being hospitalised and being in a less sympathetic environment, or a combination of all three, we shall never know. The hospital staff considered he was not fit to be discharged for a couple of weeks, and when he came home he was in a markedly worse state. He seemed more frail, and could hardly walk. A physiotherapist had done her best and lent him a walking frame, but he found it almost impossible to shuffle more than a few steps, and generally had to be helped up and down stairs. (Easier said than done - though quite short, he had become very fat and heavy). He had never been keen on taking exercise, apart from those walks, and his muscles had more or less seized up. Worst of all, he was regularly wetting or soiling his bed at night, despite our best efforts to organise a regular bathroom routine before bedtime and provide the appropriate 'furniture' next to his bed. An examination by the doctor revealed that he had Alzheimer's Disease. What, you may ask, is the difference between this and senility? I checked a few books before writing this, and the line between them seems so thin as to be almost meaningless. Senility is recognised as a term used to refer to the mild slowing down of mental functions, decreasing memory and reduced concentration. Alzheimer's is based on medical examination, generally involving detailed testing of various mental functions. Autopsy results on suspected sufferers have shown major loss of nerve cells and physical disintegration of the brain - something which is not really detectable in the case of someone still alive. But frankly, what does it matter which is which, when you have an aged and helpless parent to care for? Is it really important to listen to (or waste time on) theoretical arguments as to whether he or she has Alzheimer's or is merely elderly and 'going a bit soft'? Thanks to the doctor and consultation with social services, we had a home help to come on weekday mornings to help wash and dress him. My mother was very arthritic and awaiting a hip replacement operation, which she had about a year after my father returned from hospital, so there was a limit to what she could do. I was working full-time, so the scope for help on my part was limited except at weekends. Twice a week he went to a daycare centre, where he had lunch with about 20-30 other people of his age and could spend the rest of his time watching TV, playing bingo or snoozing. Transport was laid on both ways. Nevertheless he became increasingly difficult to look after at home. Along with a gradual decline in mental and physical faculties went the personality changes and an explosive temper; trouble with performing simple tasks; and disorientation. Trying to carry on a lucid conversation with him was out of the question, as he no longer seemed to understand or be able to follow the thread of it. It was as if he had a vague comprehension that he was mentally not right, and the recognition of this frustrated him. He would turn on the TV at all hours of the day, e xpecting to find an instant news bulletin, and get angry when there wasn't one. In vain did I show him TV programme listings in the paper and point to the nearest clock. It was totally beyond him. It is a golden rule that Alzheimer's sufferers can never be left unattended for more than a few minutes, if at all. Two incidents involving my father showed us that he had to be watched carefully at all times. One afternoon I found him in the garden, trying to saw through the trunk of a sycamore tree about 15 ft tall. He told me he was cutting it down to make a walking stick for my mother. Fortunately he had done no more than make a slight incision, but it was sufficient warning that all saws were best hidden out of sight in future. The other was in the small hours one morning, when I woke to hear shuffling around downstairs and see all the lights on. He had got dressed and was looking for the car keys, telling me he had to drive to France to collect somebody. (Needless to say, the doctor had told us that he was no longer fit to drive). It took me ages to persuade him that he had been dreaming, that he ought to come back to bed and we would 'see about it in the morning'. The keys, like the saws, were promptly tucked away safely. After nearly four years of this, it was too much for my mother and to a certain extent myself. For her it was naturally far worse, the saddest part of it being to see the wreck of the man she loved and had married nearly 60 years earlier, a man who had gone from apprenticeship as a car engineer to a distinguished wartime career in the RAF, who had been a genius with anything to do with cars, aeroplanes and boats, and who had enjoyed taking us on caravanning holidays until well into his seventies, reduced to this. He had to go into full-time care. One of us at least (my mother, sister, brother-in-law and myself) visited him almost daily, but he rarely recognised us. His eyesight as w ell as gradual mental deterioration meant he could no longer read. Attempts to jolly him up with conversation about what we had been doing met with limited response, and any questions to him produced no more than the occasional "I don't know." Here I should say that the nursing home (the cost of which was met by social services) was the only solution. My mother sometimes felt a twinge of guilt at not keeping him at home with us instead. But in he heart of hearts she recognised - and I always backed her up in this - that he was impossible to look after in the house. The physical and mental burden was too much. To those who can care for relatives in that state in their own home. I take my hat off to them. Not everybody can. If this ever happens to you, don't kid yourself and pretend you can be Superman or Superwoman. You could do yourself and your own health harm in the process. You know your own limitations, so don't let anyone make you feel guilty about 'abdicating your responsibilities'. During my father's next routine medical check-up, an aortic aneurysm was diagnosed, and we were warned that he could go at any time. In fact he survived this diagnosis by almost a year. One morning the nursing home rang us with the news we had been expecting for a long time - he had died in his sleep. He was 87. During the previous few months, my mother had often said that it was 'a living bereavement'. He had not died, but just didn't seem to be alive any longer. When he had gone, it was impossible to feel anything but relief that it was all over. One day Alzheimer's may be treatable by drugs, though it may be no more than alleviation or mild damage limitation. Reversing the ageing process is impossible, but anything which can be done to mitigate the worst aspects has to be welcomed. Of the various websites about Alzheimer's, in my view the most helpful is at < br>http://alzheimers.about.com/health/alzheimers/mbody.htm As somebody else on Dooyoo wrote on another difficult subject, 'I hope you never have to find this opinion Very Useful'. But the odds are that some of you reading this will, be it for a parent, spouse, partner or even sibling. In which case, good luck - but, believe me, you will need all the help you can get.