Here are some lovely blogs about families and dementia.
Happy times with Gumps
Joe is 14 and was very keen to write something about the time he spends with his grandfather who has had dementia for 6 years.
I think mum told me when I was about 11 that Gumps (that’s always been my name for my grandpa) wasn’t very well and that it was our turn to take care of him now. He used to live quite far away but when his wife died he moved closer to us and then even closer – to the bedroom next to mine. It took a lot of getting used to. We had less space because Gumps had to have lots of equipment, and we couldn’t leave toys and things lying around because he could trip over them. For a long time I was pretty fed up that mum was always tired and didn’t have time and energy to do all the things she used to do, because she was looking after Gumps now too.
When I started secondary school I woke up in the middle of the night, one time, because I could hear a strange noise coming from Gumps’ bedroom. I went see what was going on and realised he’d fallen out of bed and didn’t know where he was and he was crying. Mum came and sorted it all out so it was ok in the end.
It made me realise that I should “get over it” and help mum and dad by giving them a hand with Gumps. It may sound strange but that fall turned out to be a good thing, because Gumps and I got to know each other so much better afterwards, and now we’re good friends.
I love to go fishing, so mum drives us to the lake and Gumps and I spend the day there. His memory isn’t good but he remembers everything about fishing that he’s ever learned, and he’s taught me all about it. We have a great time and always catch a few fish. My friends think he’s really cool and they’ve got used to his ways and know he forgets stuff but they never take the mickey.
Gumps likes to watch me play computer games and one day I let him have a go. It was pretty funny because he couldn’t get the hang of the controls. So, instead, we play bowling, golf and tennis on the Nintendo instead which is brilliant and he is much better than me at the bowling and the golf!
I know Gumps won't live with us forever and that he will probably need to go into a home for old people quite soon. It is difficult for mum and dad (and sometimes for my brother and me) because we're growing up but he needs more time and help and now we can't take him on holidays any more. Sometimes he doesn't remember my name and calls me "the boy" which is annoying but I know he can't help it.
It’s a little weird having your grandfather as a friend but it’s also nice. It’s weird when mum tells us both off if we’re being too noisy or we’ve made a bit of a mess or left all the fishing stuff out. I don’t mind helping Gumps by cutting up his dinner, or helping him do up his shirt buttons and I even gave him a shave the other day!
Picture posed by models
Our modern family: Nick
I was brought up by my Granny after my parents died. Years later and at the point where my wife and I had just heard we were expecting our first child, she moved in with us after we had a diagnosis of her dementia.
Seven years later and now with twin daughters as well as our son, our mixed household muddles along reasonably well together. My wife bears the brunt of the care; three children now at school and her Grandmother-in-law who needs more care and attention than all three kids put together!
Granny gets on very well with the children, most of the time. They respect her privacy (she has her own sitting room) and always knock before going to visit her. As time goes on she does tend to spend more time with us, eating with us at meal times and watching television in the evening. Granny makes the children laugh – she’s now quite disinhibited and says some rather naughty things and we have to deal with her new language – she’s taken to swearing on occasion (I’d never even heard her say “damn” before the dementia) and has discovered somehow all the rudest of words. She makes us all blush! She’s quite a picky eater now too but the kids are great at encouraging her to eat her dinner.
The biggest challenge has been in dealing with her incontinence. The children don’t understand why Granny can’t go to the toilet by herself and it does cause them some distress. It’s difficult for my wife who deals with all the personal care but she is adamant that she doesn’t want us to admit my grandmother into a care home until we no longer have an option. I do feel very guilty at times – my lovely wife never asked for this, and our children do suffer when we can’t take holidays abroad (the thought of trying to get Granny onto a plane makes me shudder), or when their friends tease them about their “mad” grandmother.
The biggest benefit of having Granny live with us has been her relationship with our children – at times it’s like having 4 kids because they collude in mischief making and gang up on my wife and I. They have a lot of fun together because they enjoy doing many of the same things. My daughters play with their Barbie dolls and Granny joins in, and she sings a mean karaoke with our son. She does a good Meatloaf impression! My daughters have taken to helping Granny get dressed in the morning; they take their uniforms into her bedroom and all get dressed together once my wife has finished the personal care side of things. We were a little surprised the first time we saw her wearing a pair of pink spotty socks belonging to the girls, rather than tights, but that’s a small price to pay.
We’re researching day centres so that my wife can have a break and are thinking about respite in a local care home so that we could, just possibly, take that foreign holiday with the kids later this year. The local care home manager has been great – she’s given us lots of information and arranged for their hairdresser to do Granny’s hair as well (my wife takes her to the care home for her hairdo and lunch), and we’re thinking about taking Granny there to have a bath a couple of times a week. It will be a way of easing her into having someone else do the personal care and will give my wife a bit of a break.
I’ve never regretted taking Granny in – she did that for me all those years ago when my parents died and gave up her retirement years to care for me. It’s the least I could do. What’s more important is that our children are growing up with kind and caring hearts and with an understanding of what dementia is. They may need that knowledge to look after their parents one day.y can’t g