Caring for someone with dementia is no picnic. The sometimes-saintly aura that surrounds the carer can blind an outsider to the true difficulty of the task. No one knows what it’s like to be a full-time carer until you’ve been one. Sometimes it’s so all-consuming and isolating you feel like you’ve entered an alternate universe, outside of the beat of daily life. My sister and I shared caregiving for our father until he passed away. He refused all other outside help. We did it by commuting to Toronto from Los Angeles, where she lives, and Somerset, UK, where I was. We put our lives on hold for five years, and felt we were well on the way to losing our collective marbles.
Our father was never an easy man to deal with. He was a curmudgeon, the product of a domineering father and a youth spent in Poland during WWII. As his dementia progressed his memory of the things that troubled him began to slip away. He softened, laughed, and even expressed gratefulness for the help we were giving him. It was an unexpected journey and a peculiar gift.
Dealing with dementia is daunting. There are stages and degrees of memory loss, and extreme mood swings. You are both a nurse in a care home, and a parent looking after a confused child. You may find yourself dealing with someone who doesn’t know who you are anymore. It’s easy to see how this can be isolating and challenging. I reached out to others in similar situations. It was a necessary support system, especially when time outside of the house is limited by the needs of the person being cared for. Phone calls and Skype conversations kept us sane. Websites like this were a life-line.
Written by Mary Renouf | Voice Sam Boffin | Director of Photography Nick Bennett | Director Matt Rhodes
Mary wrote this piece in response to caring about her father.