Friday 10 May 2013

How family members react to dementia - and why everyone needs to understand this condition...

This is a short observation of the reaction of a close relative, to my Mother's condition:

From a simple psychological point of view - my cousin is going through denial, and a form of grieving. She can not accept that her Aunt is now as she is. Therefore, she is seeking someone to blame. Of all people, and unfortunately so very common under such circumstances, she has targeted the person closest to her Aunt. This is, as I say, very common.

After my Mother left hospital, my cousin would only visit for a couple of hours each week. Prior to going into hospital, my Mother was still mobile, and reasonably compus mentis. Now, however, she is immobile, and confused, albeit (as described in her hospital report), pleasantly so. Prior to hospitalisation, it was my Mother who would frequently visit my cousin. After discharge, there was a definite change in my cousin's routine, as she now had to visit my Mother.

My cousin would appear to be undergoing a premature, but common, grieving process. This happens, quite frequently, with members of families, who are in frequent, but not daily contact, with the person concerned. After each visit, they remember the person as they used to be, and not as they are. On subsequent visits, they think they detect a worsening of the situation, even when this is not the case.

As a result of her dementia, my Mother is no longer the person my cousin once knew - this, is the main problem.

My cousin believes, she has lost the friend (my Mother) she once had, and all blame for this, is then directed at the person closest to my Mother, and who cares for my Mother. This is partly because my cousin feels a certain amount of guilt, in that she could do nothing to prevent what happened, she is unable (and many are) to handle the caring situation, and also because she is seeking to blame someone else for the what has happened.

The fact that my cousin has an additional, unrelated reason, that she can use to punish the person whom she holds responsible, only makes matters worse. Under such circumstances, there is only one course of action. And that, is to sever all ties, to enable her (my cousin) to accept her loss, and find closure.

This of course, means, my cousin can never come into contact with me or my Mother again, as the level of hostility imparted, would be unacceptable.

My cousin, may at some time in the future, feel that she can approach me again - unfortunately, at a time when the main carer needs help and support from close family, they find instead, they are being treated as if they are totally responsible for the illness, shunned and indeed treated as outcasts.

For those who take up the burden of caring - forgiveness towards those who have chosen to both abandon them, and indeed blame them, is almost impossible.

If you are a relative, or indeed friend, of a carer, bear this in mind. You may think you have already lost the person you knew, or the person you knew is no longer there. However, the person who provides the caring, has a different view. Their loss, and their grieving, only begins when their caring has ended. That, can often be, many years away,

They, the carers, will benefit from their experience, and be more balanced, understanding, and indeed caring for others. A finer group of people, you could not wish to meet.

We, as carers, in the words of Shakespeare - "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".

2011 UK census revealed increase in carer numbers

Total number of carers - 5.8 million, up from 5.2 million in 2001
Those providing care for more than 20 hours per week - 2.1 million, up nearly half a million since 2001
Those providing care for more than 50 hours per week - 1.36 million, up 270,000 since 2001

An overall increase of 11% between 2001 and 2011 

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