Getting older comes to us all, I for one just can't believe how fast the last decade has gone. 10 years ago I was 17, I was learning to drive, not even old enough to order a glass of Prossecco. Flash forward 10 years, i'm older (and I would like to think more mature...) and so is everyone around me. I had never really thought about how it would be to watch my family getting older, there are factors coming into play that are altering the course of our paths. My Mum now has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is contemplating the first of potentially 2 knee surgeries and my Grandparents are thinking about their futures. Both my Mum's Mum and Dad's Mum are doing great, they live independently and old age is treating them well.
My Granddad is having a harder time, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago, at the time it was just small signs, that to most of us we didn't even blink an eye lid at. It was just little things like forgetting where he had put his glasses, or putting the remote control in the fridge instead of the milk, you know little things that we all do to some extent. I know that I have managed to get in the shower with my bra on before now, and I may have even put one of Leo's nappies in washing machine (and washed it!), that created a mess, have you ever seen the gel balls that make a nappy!?
Since that first diagnosis though, things have sped up dramatically, all of a sudden. Those of us who had struggled to see what everyone was talking about before, suddenly realised that Granddad really wasn't very well. His short term memory has really taken a hit, which in the grand scheme of things is better than him losing his long term, this means that he sometimes doesn't recognise us grandchildren as he expects us to look younger, and when it comes to Leo he thinks he should still be a little baby and often gets surprised when he remembers that he is actually in school.
Mt Granddad is pretty amazing, he's incredibly clever and his memory was comparable to an elephant's, he never would forget. Birthday's, special occasions, you name it, it was forever emblazoned in his mind. It's hard to watch him fighting within himself, it's hard to see him reaching out for his dead wife and discovering everyday that she passed away back in 2008. The first time I heard him ask my Dad 'How is Pam doing' I sat still and didn't dare breathe. I thought he must have meant another Pam... But he didn't. Dad answered his question and filled in the gaps of the last 8 years, he accepted it but it was hard to witness. As he doesn't remember, we don't correct him anymore, it just seems kinder. Why should we rip off that band aid when we will only need to tell him again in an hour, day or week? It just doesn't seem fair.
Granddad currently lives in a ground floor flat at a residential home for the elderly, it has come to the point where the daytime support that is there, have had to disconnect his cooker because the fire brigade have had to come and put out one to many fires when he attempts to cook and forgets... Then there was the time that he went out for a walk in the middle of the night and eventually got found walking around near the old home he used to share with his wife. You see where he is now doesn't provide any real support for him, and it is beginning to becoming very apparent that the time is fastly approaching where he will need to move into a care home so that he has the support and assistance he needs around the clock.
This is something that Granddad has been fighting for a long time, he has always been such an independent soul, so this for him is really the biggest kick in the teeth. He has been in and out for respite care and seems to slowly be becoming accustomed to the idea. Upon his last visit the other week, he came out singing their praises and was quite happy about the time he had spent there.
If you are thinking about respire care for someone you love, you can view the respite care guide here.
It is so hard watching people you love grow older and going through things that are completely out of your control, or anyone else's for that matter. All we can do is be there and support them in this next stage of their life, make sure they know that they are not alone