When it comes to looking after a person with dementia, I have always felt there are three main issues you have to come to terms with. Firstly, you have to make sure your loved one is safe and well in the present. You also have to think about the future and what care they will require as they deteriorate. And thirdly, you have the emotional wrench of dealing with the loss of the person you knew in the past. The fact that the person you know and love is not the person they once were. The person you talked to about your life – the ups and downs, the achievements and general goings on in your daily living – cannot process what you are saying anymore. You might want to share your good and bad news, but they can’t relate to what you are saying.
I remember when I brought my mum to see my new house. She would have loved it. And I’m pretty sure she would have been very proud of me. But she couldn’t process where she was or what was happening. Worse still, she found it distressing. She just knew she was in a strange place that she didn’t recognise. She had no awareness that her daughter was showing her a newly-acquired dream home.
It’s normal to feel bereavement, even when the person you love is still here. You want to tell them things. You want to share experiences, but you can’t. Well, you can… but they may not be able to process what you’re saying.
And when they do pass away, it’s like you’ve lost them for the second time. It’s incredibly hard to deal with and it’s impossible for me to offer any advice on how to cope in this situation, other than to suggest that you look to other loved ones and friends for support. And try not to bottle up how you are feeling.
On the subject of bereavement, I recently interviewed songwriter and musician Dzal Martin. Dzal is the lead guitarist in The Equals and The Trembling Wilburys (a Traveling Wilburys tribute band) and also writes excellent songs from the heart. He has recently released an album called ‘Drawing Horses’, a collection of original songs he penned himself. One of the tracks on the album, ‘Somebody Left Me’, is about losing his father when he was a teenager, how it affected his life and the father/son moments he has missed out on.
I recently interviewed Dzal about the song and we talked about bereavement, as well as the sense of loss felt by dementia carers, even when their loved one is still alive.
I personally found the song touching and emotional to listen to. You can watch our interview here: https://youtu.be/UgQcJiOpp4M
For more information on Dzal’s music and the album, ‘Drawing Horses’, visit his website at https://dzalmartin.com