Mum has a fantastic relationship with the teenage grandson who lives ten minutes walk from her rest home. I’ve been meaning to interview him for ages. Here’s his take on dementia - what it is and what works:
More than just memory loss
I remember the last holiday at Nanny and Granddad’s house, before they moved into rest homes. Nanny wouldn't come out of bed for Christmas dinner. It wasn't so much a memory thing as a behavioural change. It was quite disturbing - she wasn't usually like that.
Learn as you go
I’ve learnt to avoid questions that Nanny won’t know the answer to. And I’ve got good at shifting the conversation quickly to distract her from tricky things or stuff that upsets her. Even if you say something bad, it’s OK - you can learn from it and she’ll probably forget.
Find out what helps
It really helps if I use Nanny’s own phrases to describe things. Like if I say the name of the cafe we go to all the time, she doesn't remember it. But when I go, “You know, the one with the steps to the courtyard outside,” she remembers straight away.
Keep it light
It’s good to make Nanny feel like she’s not forgetting too much, or if she does forget something, it's OK. Like anyone could forget that - it's not a big deal. Sometimes you have to play down pretty major things.
Lots of love
I still like spending time with Nanny. We were very close when I was little. I get lots of hugs - she’s very adoring. It’s absurd but it's also kind of nice. Sometimes I make things up to amuse the both of us. Is that bad?