Thursday, 24 December 2015

When it's dementia don't wait too late

It has been just about one year since mum first went into the nursing home. Recent events have told me that it was the right thing to put her in there when I did. I started to think in these terms the last time mum went into hospital with an infection - she was in the hospital with an infection four times this year - and it was talking at a party to a friend's friend that I put it all together.

The guy plonked himself down next to me during the party and told me his father had developed dementia, and he wanted my advice. I asked him when the geriatrician had given the diagnosis of dementia and he told me. His father lives on the Sunshine Coast in assisted living and had said he didn't want to go into a nursing home. This guy's brother lives up on the Sunshine Coast and was helping with the father. They had sorted out powers of attorney and the advance health directive.

I told him about dad, who had gone into a nursing home up on the Sunshine Coast in March 2009 when his dementia was more advanced than mum's had been at her admission. The problem was that every time mum went up to the nursing home to visit him he would ask her when he was going home. He used to wait for her by the entrance, and try to get out with her when her visiting time was over. He never acclimatised to the nursing home environment.

How different, I said, it was with mum. During her most recent hospital admission she recovered from the infection well enough but then the ward staff were giving her sedatives to make her calm down because she was so fretful about being in the strange hospital environment. She knew it wasn't her normal place, even though she wouldn't have been able to tell you where her normal place was. However, once she was back in the nursing home she completely calmed down and readjusted immediately to the environment. She knew where she was at last, and revelled in the feeling of comfort it afforded her.

I told the guy these things as well as I could, making it clear that you have to get the geriatrician and the lawyer working for you in these situations if you want peace. My advice to him was to try to get his father to agree to moving into a nursing home as soon as possible. I told him how I had waited from March 2014 - when the geriatrician gave us the diagnosis of dementia - until December 2014, when we got her into the nursing home. It was a tough time for me. Blog posts pretty much dried up for months and months because of the stress I was under. I don't relish memories of that time at all. Once the decision had been made to move to Sydney though things really started coming together. My advice to anyone with a parent with dementia is to think seriously about the legal and medical demands that will come. Find a solution that will last, and stick to it. Don't be afraid, be strong.

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