Throughout my life, I have always known someone special to me with dementia, so Alzheimer’s Society is a charity close to my heart, prioritising dementia research and awareness. I have encountered dementia in several forms, it manifested differently in each of my loved ones, leading me to become more aware of the disease as I have gotten older. No matter the case, dementia doesn’t take over the love you have for your family member, and you can still see their true selves beneath this harsh disease.
Unfortunately, I recently lost my great nan Joan Nora Jackman, aged 95, who, despite having dementia, still maintained her sense of humour and loveable personality until the end. At times, her memory was impressive considering her condition, yet some days she found it difficult and confusing, attempting to fight the disease. I want to pay tribute to her wittiness, her proof that dementia doesn’t have to take over. Nan Joan would always reminisce about her days in Australia, walking her dog on hot summer days and inspire me to see the world. Dementia doesn’t destroy memories, contrary to common belief, and my nan will live on in the memories I have of her and her past.
I thought she was playing a trick on me, because she did love a ‘good wind up’, but then it became clear that dementia was trying to take another loved one from me
Towards the end of her life, I helped care for her as she became visibly weaker. My presence in helping her meant that she became more aware of who I was again. I will never forget the time I went round with my sister, who did her cleaning on the weekends, and when I left the room she asked, ‘Who’s your friend?’ This hurt, to see the effects of dementia first-hand, and I remember frantically reaching for photos of me on her ledge to prove my identity. I thought she was playing a trick on me, because she did love a ‘good wind up’, but then it became clear that dementia was trying to take another loved one from me. Thankfully, for me, despite my nan passing, I think we won against the disease, Nan was able to pass peacefully with us around her, knowing how much she was loved and appreciated.
My great nan Wo Wo as we called her, was also a fun lady, who played on the floor with my baby brother at the time, even in her 80s. She always made the carers laugh and loved her dog teddies. As dementia crept on, she began to walk and feed these teddies, dementia unveiling her kind-hearted and caring nature. I remember as a child, her looking at me with confusion from afar. This scared me as a young girl watching her great nan deteriorate due to such a disease which I couldn’t comprehend. As I have grown older, I have become more accepting of this aspect of dementia, understanding that sometimes victims of the disease remember you deep down, but something is slightly in the way, or they remember a younger version of you, their long-term memory better than their short term. Despite this confusion, it is important not to get angry or give up on your loved one; for they will always remember the love they have for you deep in their heart, want you to remain by their side and protect them from dementia’s isolating abilities. This poem, Do Not Ask Me to Remember by Owen Darnell encapsulates this perfectly:
Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’til my life is done.
– Owen Darnell
This pandemic has left those with Alzheimer’s feeling more isolated than ever
Although dementia is a disease of the mind, it affects our loved ones physically too, they can be reluctant to eat for example, which leaves them frail and weak. The pandemic has hit people suffering from dementia hard, us losing our dear Nan Batt last year in the first peak of Coronavirus; there will forever be a hole in my heart, me unable to say good-bye. I had so much to tell her and will never forget her eyes lighting up as I walked in the room to see her, and her introducing me proudly to her friends at the care home. This pandemic has left those with Alzheimer’s feeling more isolated than ever, not understanding that they cannot be with those they love, the people that keep them going.
Having lost so many dear to me to Alzheimer’s, I have decided to, all being well, do the 5km memory walk in Milton Keynes on the 2nd of October this year. I will encourage people to be wary of this disease and the forms it takes, busting the myths surrounding what it means to have or have someone dear to you with dementia. You can find this information via the Alzheimer’s Society website, and even become a Dementia Friend. I intend to get even more involved with the society now that I have lost my nan. Volunteer, donate or simply research today.
In loving memory of Nan Wo Wo, Nan Rose, Nan Batt and Nan Joan.
In-article images courtesy of writer.
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