When I worked in aged care, this generally meant many of the few people still coming to visit an elderly member of the family, simply stopped visiting. Looking at the image I have added, it doesn’t look very inviting even to the person who has to live there… I know it is a bare room, but it is definitely nothing like home. Todays blog is my wandering mind, thinking out loud about how dementia and aged care affects our friendships.
Current research says when a person enters aged care (with or without dementia) most people will never or rarely visit them, and over the years I have literally heard dozens of people say , ‘I really should visit x, y or z, but just can,’t bear seeing them in a nursing home’, or ‘I just can’t bear being reminded of my mother/father/friend, who died in one’ and so on.
So imagine how hard it is for someone who not only has to live in a residential care facility, but who then loses contact with many of their close family and friends. When I worked in a dedicated a dementia unit in South Australia, this was even more pronounced. Sometimes even the immediate family would stop visiting. It is so sad the selfishness of our own feelings gets in the way of doing the right thing for others… which in the long run is so often the right thing for us!!
At funerals, I hear people say, ‘Oh, I feel so guilty for not having visited x y or z.’ In my own case, I have even heard of some of my family or ‘friends’ saying to each other they prefer not to stay in touch now in case I don’t know them, or behave strangely. Of course it is easy to say to myself, or for others to say, ‘these people weren’t real friends in the first place then’, but it still hurts, and it adds to the isolation caused by some of the other symptoms of dementia.
There’s an old saying, ‘when you’re down, there’s nothing quite like death for a comeback!’
This is particularly true as the faltered or departed friends mill around the tea and coffee after the funeral of an ‘old friend’, that very same friend they wouldn’t muster the courage to face their own fears to visit during illness or a nursing home.
I feel extremely thankful I still have a number of beautiful friends who spend time with me, who are not afraid of the changes or deterioration of the dementia, and who simply love me for who I am, on any given day. Many of the people I know living with dementia are extremely isolated and alone, and I hope meeting on my blog has helped them. It has definitely helped me, as without my online friends, and the new colleagues made through my advocacy work, there are still many days I would be very lonely. Thank you all.