As some of you are aware when I wrote Part 1 (please click here for Part 1) of my Dementia Blog , my Father-in-law (FIL) has Vascular Dementia. Today is time for Part 2! If we are being totally honest we never believed we would still have him here. I wrote Part one in May 2013, almost two years ago and he is still with us. I say with us, he is not with us, he is in a little world a little further away from the one that we live in but every now and again those worlds link up. But most of the time he is in his world with his memories and the people he loves pop in very often to visit! He was diagnosed in September 2012. He left Hospital 3 months later and became a resident in a wonderful Nursing home in December 2013 where he still resides.
18 months ago he almost left us. He was put on end of life care. He decided to stop all his medication and we thought that was the end. We had discussions, treatment plans, how we wanted his last few days to be etc and prepared ourselves! However! FIL decided that he wasn’t ready to go! This is so him! He is still on no medication for his “ailments!” Mmmmmm! Says a lot about medicine but that’s a conversation for another day!
Mother-in-law (MIL) continues to visit every day, tending to his every need. She is actually the perfect wife. He needs nothing. All his life he has insisted on the best clothes, actually the best things in life and MIL insists he still has this. As she has said, it is the only thing she can control, that she can help him with. His general care is with the Staff at the home and my word they absolutely look after him. Initially, when he first went into the home he was still aggressive and sometimes violent but there is none of that now. He speaks very little, we get most communication through his eyes and his smile. He enjoys hand massages, his eyes light up if you mention his wife’s name and he stares at Chris when we visit. There are flickers of recognition when we mention the Children and he still thoroughly enjoys chocolate cake and knows the difference between his favourite champagne and Aldi’s prosecco!
The Children find it very difficult to visit now. This is not Grandad anymore, but I am not sure it is that they don’t like. They are tough little cookies but the whole Nursing Home experience is difficult. The other residents can be (and I hate to say it) frightening. As adults we can feel uncomfortable, for the Children it can be upsetting. They still visit but very rarely. Chris and I still visit every week. I am not going to lie, there are times when we don’t know how we are going to fit it in. Its not just a 40 minute visit but its the journey up there and back and depending on how the visit was depends on how we are for the rest of the afternoon. I work most Saturday mornings, children need taking here there and everywhere and sometimes we just have to accept that one of us will go up on our own. There are some Saturdays when we barely see each other.
Anyway! The reason I am writing this blog is really because my belief in euthanasia has changed. I am all for people choosing to end their lives for other reasons but not for Dementia/Alzheimers. I have witnessed people in terrible distress with their terminal illnesses and I always imagined losing your memories, mind, thought processes etc would be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn’t be though, not for the people who have it. The worst thing is for the Family seeing their love one literally disappearing in-front of their eyes and I am not denying that is horrendous. and incredibly upsetting . I am a step away from it as he is an in law and not my Dad. I know Chris finds it deeply upsetting at times. FIL has some of his care paid for by the NHS and then he tops up his care with his own money. He has spent the majority of his life paying HUGE amounts of tax and NI and has paid for all other operations/treatments privately so no one can condone him for finally taking advantage of the NHS system. However, he is content in his world. He is not in any obvious pain, he still takes delight in visitors, he adores his Wife. He enjoys sitting outside, he has a great view of the gardens from his room. He loves watching certain television programs and he loves the attention from the Staff. The Chef provides him with delicious food, he is fed, watered, cleaned and loved. I know there are still moments when he lashes out. He has a strong right hook and the staff just accept it. They are absolutely amazing and should be treated with the utmost respect. I could never do it.
That is not to say we think he should be kept alive at all cost. He is immobile and is prone to chest infections. Like many people the moment he sneezes, coughs etc, he is given antibiotics. There are times when we sigh and just think, just leave him be. Oh gosh! That sounds awful doesn’t it? How much intervention should there be in these situations?
From the Family’s point of view, MIL enjoys visiting and taking care of him, Chris enjoys the bond he now has with his Dad. He is atrocious at massaging his Dad’s hands but that is ok! He chats to him about work and the children, feeds him bite size pieces of cake, cleans his glasses and watches the TV with him. I tend to mother him and have a chat with the other residents, occasionally read the paper to him, chat about nothing and everything! He is a happy chap!
What more can we ask for?!