Looking after someone with dementia – the umbrella term for degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s – can be incredibly upsetting, isolating and painful. But there is help, support and understanding available that can make things a little easier to cope with.
Founder of Singing for the Brain, Chreanne Montgomery-Smith, said “people hear and read so much about dementia in terms of a decline and the progression of symptoms – that is by far the overwhelming narrative – but people with dementia show us every day that it is possible to live well and to have a progression of hope.”
Ruth Holbrook, who looks after her husband Maurice (both pictured above) has been involved with the Carers’ Centre and other local services since Maurice’s diagnosis. Because Ruth had worked in health and social care, she knew what support was available.
“I contacted RICE [Research Institute for the Care of Older People] myself and it made a difference having that support service right from the beginning. My advice would be Just to make people aware of what is available out there. If you don’t know, you can feel very isolated.
“We’ve never kept quiet about Maurice’s diagnosis so people are aware and they naturally support you because they understand a little bit. The more you talk about it the better it is,” says Ruth.
Ruth says that Maurice likes to go out and do things as he gets bored at home.
“It can be hard to fill the day, so I’m so grateful for the Carers’ Centre and Peggy Dodd for giving us things to do and places to go! It gives me a break as well, particularly if I don’t have to drive. Our social life has never been so busy!”
Ruth and Maurice also attend the Carers’ Centre Dementia Café, run in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, every month.
“The café is special because while we go together, Maurice and I do separate things in separate rooms. Us carers can really learn from each other, ask about how to cope with one thing or another, and it means we don’t have to talk about our loved ones in front of them. It gives me some ‘me’ time as well.”
Paul Seymour was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 54. His wife Tracey said the news was very difficult to accept.
“The consultant at RICE who told us the diagnosis was upset. She said we were very young to be seeing her, which made it hard for her to say that it was Alzheimer’s,” says Tracey.
But since accepting the news Tracey and Paul have ‘got on with things’ and Paul is still able to work.
“It is possible to live well – and work well – with dementia. Paul is still working as a labourer which is wonderful and his work are so very supportive. Everyone is supportive – from the GP to Alzheimer’s Society to the local shops that know Paul well,” says Tracey.
The Carers’ Centre has a carer support worker, Grace Moorton, who works with carers of people living with dementia. If you would like to set up an appointment with Grace, or learn more about the Dementia Café or any of our other services including counselling, telephone befriending and breaks, just get in touch on the details below.
B&NES Carers’ Centre
0800 0388 885 (line open 9am – 5pm)