It’s that time of year already.
My Instagram is full of trees already erected and beautifully decorated, I’m seeing pictures of baubles and tinsel, advent calendars and perfectly wrapped presents. My Instagram certainly looks materialisticly pretty, but what it’s what I’m NOT seeing that upsets me a little.
This year is going to be a particularly tough Christmas for Paul’s family. Sadly, in the Summer, Paul’s wonderful Nan passed away. She was one hell of an amazing lady and I’m writing this post with tears in my eyes and the biggest lump in my throat.
On my first date with Paul, one of the first things he told me about was his Nan. He shared memories of both sets of his Grandparents with such a fondness and it melted my heart to the core.
He told me he only one Grandparent left and he treasured her. And then came the sad part. His Nan didn’t know who he was. The doting Grandmother that got him out of many a scrape, filled the freezer with ice lollies for him and his friends to sneak into the house and help themselves to after a sweaty game of football was no longer there as he knew her. The Grandmother that filled cold Yorkshire puddings full of jam after the weekly suddenly dinner had been stolen. Dementia had taken over and taken away the Grandmother he once knew.
I remember the first time I met Nanny Olive. She was this tiny little lady with bundles of energy. Her hair set beautifully and she was wearing a pretty floral skirt with a pastel cardigan. She was beautiful. She had a smile that lit up the room and she quickly became my Queen.
I was fortunate enough to look after Nan during the last 3 months of her time on this Earth. I got to know things that would trigger distress and ways to calm her down. Talking about her family always made her smile and she was so proud of the family she had created, my father in law and her twin girls, her gorgeous three grandsons and beautiful three granddaughters followed by the energetic five great grandchildren. She was always happiest talking about them or singing her favourite songs, Bicycle Made For Two and Edelweiss. You could always hear her singing down the corridors and she would often have the carers singing along with her. Nan was a character for sure. I wish I had known the lady she used to be, before she Dementia took hold of her and made her a different person to the one her family knew. I’m not going to write about her bad days, for us as a family, it’s important to hold onto the lady she used to be and, although I didn’t know the lady before dementia, I hold onto the happy times I shared with her. Singing at the top of our lungs, sharing kisses and cuddles, laughing at absolutely nothing and one of my favourite memories, her showing me a photo of her “handsome grandson paul, he’s a good boy, you should marry him”. Of course, Nan didn’t know I lived with him but when I told her each time, she’d tell me I was a lucky girl and give me a kiss.
Dementia is a cruel illness. There’s no stopping it and the decline is rapid. You can try to control it with medication but it cannot be cured. During my time as a dementia carer, I took part in a course whereby we were giving tools to change our posture, sight and hearing, we were put in an environment out of our comfort zone and barked orders all whilst hearing upto 70 different sounds through headphones. It was horrible. I felt vulnerable, isolated and alone in a room full of people. The way we were feeling and with the help of the apparatus given to us has apparently put us in the shoes of someone suffering from dementia, it was as close to it as we could get and even then, we weren’t close enough. I’ve never forgotten that feeling and how it must feel for those suffering.
Everything you know and everyone you love has gone. Even though your daughter may be holding your hand, she’s not. She’s dead.You’re on your own, nobody cares, nobody understands you and why the hell cant you make a simple trip to the corner shop without getting lost and taking five buses?
That’s only a tiny part of dementia, everyday the sufferer will grieve for those living and passed. Everyday they will try to do the same tasks they taught their own children to do and yet they can’t do it. Life is not as they know it.
For the families it affects, it’s just as cruel. Although the loved one suffering has no idea what’s going on and therefore, repetition and grieving is “normal”, the families have to sit on the sidelines knowing there’s nothing they can do. They are powerless to a disease that doesn’t give two shits about who it takes and when. Dementia doesn’t just take one person, it takes a whole family until it has done what it came to do and the suffering is over. But it’s never over.
I’ve seen dementia at its most cruel, I’ve seen it create the cruellest hallucinations, turn the sweetest people into Jekyl & Hyde characters and completely strip away any dignity. It’s an ugly disease and is still no closer to being cured.
This Christmas, Paul and I have decided not to buy presents for each other, instead, we are donating to Dementia and Alzheimer’s charities in memory of Nan. I will also be donating a little extra in memory of Mr P, a man who taught me things about myself I never knew and is my guardian angel. He too lost his battle this year with the cruel disease.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the lovely parts of Christmas on social media, the trees, the turkey and the irritating “boy done good” photos on Boxing Day, flashing fancy presents for all to see. And that’s fine, don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing time of year but I can’t help but wonder, have any of us donated just £5 to a charity of our choice? It’s the cost of one less present we didn’t need to buy, one less box of Quality Street to sit on our hips or one less bottle of wine. Maybe I’m soft as shit and think to much but are we really a nation that cares more about a fancy camera and a flashy watch than what’s actually going on around us?
It doesn’t matter who you donate too, just take the time to donate £5 to a charity of your choice. My only regret is that we’ve not done it often enough.
This morning I watched an advert that made me cry and prompted this post. Please, watch it, text and donate. Dementia WILL at sometime affect you and your families. If this isn’t the charity of your choice that’s ok, donate elsewhere or even buy someone homeless a coffee.TEXT AND DONATE HERE
Just don’t be forgetting that Christmas and Charity should be combined.