So far 2014 has been one of personal crisis for me. It start on New Year's Eve when my father in law had to go into hospital and had failed to make provision for my mother in law who suffers from dementia. I won't bore you with the details but my mother in law was taken into care and my father in law has moved in with us. They are both now safe.
Although my mother in law had been diagnosed in 2011 as suffering from dementia, they had not taken any steps or indeed learnt much about this very cruel condition. Instead they opted for the head in sand approach and tried to cope. We live four hours away and it was very easy for them to pretend that everything was all right. Apparently this happens quite often as dementia sufferers can be quite adept at hiding things until it is far too late. My mother in law decided that she did not need to go to see doctors -- something we were unaware of. It is all terribly sad but the real reason why I am writing this blog is to urge other people not to sleep walk into such a situation.
My in laws singularly failed to appoint anyone to act as their attorney in event of their own physical or mental incapacity. Because of this, we now have to go down the route of having my mother in law declared mentally incapable and having my husband (hopefully) appointed as a Deputy of the Court of Protection to safeguard her financial affairs. It is a much more expensive and traumatic way to have to do it. In the UK, the lasting power of attorney only come into effect when you are no longer capable and you are able to stipulate many things about your care which must be taken into consideration. The Alzheimer's Society has links to the forms. It can easily be done when people are drawing up or updating their wills.
One of my aunts when she learnt about my mother in law's plight asked how old she was as she was certain dementia only happened to people in their 80s. My aunt is in her early 70s and thought she still had some years to go before she had to worry. My mother in law is 78. She has been displaying symptoms over the past decade. A friend of a friend developed dementia when she was 52. It can happen at any age. Nobody knows the precise cause either. There are lots of theories but...
There are also many types of dementia. Alzheimer's is perhaps the best known form. And sometimes a brain scan can be inconclusive as it was with my mother in law and the precise nature of the dementia can not be pinpointed. Dementia is one of the major hidden problems in our aging population. Unfortunately it still retains a stigma and people can be reluctant to seek help or get involved.
Dementia is a terribly cruel condition and a bit like a wall being slowly built around a person as they lose the ability to effectively communicate. The person remains inside that wall and is underneath the same person. When the wall becomes too thick, the person does need specialist care but there are a load of things that can be done to slow the building of the wall and enable the person to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. However the person and their primary carer do have to take responsibility and seek out help. The primary carer needs as much support as the person suffering from dementia. And the people who work with dementia sufferers are not there to judge or point fingers but to help. It is all about dignity and allowing the sufferer to live as full a life as possible.
I truly wish my in laws had sought help and had not fallen through the cracks. I wish I had nagged more and had not accepted things at face value but I am the foreign daughter in law and was reluctant. Unfortunately you can not change the past, you can only go forward.
If just one person after reading this blog takes the time to get their affairs in order or urges someone else to, then this blog will have accomplished its purpose.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances. You can read more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk