A wife’s standpoint – how it all began……..
Following Sally's testimony from the daughter on Monday, today we hear from Sheila, the mother - and wife.
In a very moving account, so evocative of the early stages of dementia and the distressing impact on the family, Sheila recalls what it was like when her husband of nearly 60 years started to show symptoms of the condition.
If a change happens in a family, everyone has to adjust. Think of what it feels like, when your child starts school. So it was, when my husband, we'll call him Bill, began to change: small things, being forgetful, losing the thread of the conversation. (Well, he was in his 80’s – the absent-minded Professor?!)
No problems with driving, doing puzzles such as cryptic crosswords, Sudoku, playing Scrabble and Bridge, photography, doing the garden. The telephone was difficult, but then he had some hearing loss.
I cannot remember why Bill was referred to a Geriatrician, who came to the house and asked him some questions. A brain scan revealed 'brain shrinkage'. The Consultant did not mention 'dementia', though.
But as time went on, his behaviour became increasingly worrying. He repeatedly asked me about the storyline in TV programmes, especially during advertisements. 'What has this to do with what we were watching?'
'Have you booked a taxi?'
'When are we going?'
'Today?' asked repeatedly.
Bill's 'time-sense' failed, so he would shave at 3.00 am.
'I was awake, it saves time,' he would say.
And later, his 'sense of place' became confused. He would walk right past our house and then get lost. On three or four occasions, Bill went missing and I had to call the police. He could be missing for over an hour, but then find his way home. Once, a kind neighbour walked him home.
Still we managed, because I learnt how to keep watch. At this stage, he knew he had problems and it worried him.
'What am I going to do?' he would ask. I reassured him that I was there to remember for him.