Living with Dementia
17 January 2018 by Susanne Grimwade
Mrs Green is a 76 year old lady and lives with her elderly husband Kenneth in Hadleigh Suffolk. They have one daughter Karen who lives in Canada with their three grandchildren. Mrs Green was a teacher prior to retiring, a keen gardener, an active member of her local WI Group and attended church regularly.
It was apparent two years ago when Mrs Green travelled to Canada to visit her family there was something not quite right…………. Karen noticed her mother was very quiet throughout her visit and vividly recalls during a celebratory meal to mark her parents golden wedding anniversary her mother was disengaged from the majority of conversations which took place that evening. Karen was afraid she had upset her mother, however, Mr Green explained that he too was concerned about his wife as she has been like this for a number of months.
On returning to Suffolk, Mr Green arranged for his wife to visit her GP. At first the doctor thought Mrs Green was depressed, however, Mr Green knew this was out of character for his wife who he adored and with whom he had not spent a single night apart their entire married life. Mr Green was not convinced by this diagnosis and requested further medical tests were carried out. The GP made a referral to the memory clinic and after a number of assessments formally diagnosed Mrs Green as having Alzheimer’s disease.
For the last two years Mr Green has been his wife’s main carer. Mrs Green is no longer able to tend her garden and due to mobility issues himself Mr Green now employs a gardener. Mrs Green has also stopped attending church and her WI meetings which took place on the last Monday of every month due to the fact Mrs Green now gets disorientated when she leaves the house. On one particular afternoon Mrs Green told her husband she was going to visit a neighbour a few doors down the road from where they lived but failed to arrive several hours later. Thankfully Mrs Green was picked up by the police some distance away and returned safely home all be it in an increasingly confused state.
Mr Green has noticed a rapid deterioration in his wife’s health both mentally and physically. Mrs Green now requires assistance with her personal care and she is becoming physically and verbally abusive to her husband. Although Mrs Green is under the care of her GP, social worker, and the community mental health team Mr Green can no longer cope and is now looking at various full time residential care placements for his wife.
The story of Mr and Mrs Green is, in fact, fictitious but based on true accounts provided by a number of our clients over the years. Dementia is the general term used for diseases affecting the brain including Alzheimer’s which is characterised by progressive cognitive impairment and behavioural problems. There are of course other types of dementia including vascular dementia, dementia with lewy bodies and fronto temporal dementia being the most common. It should also be noted dementia does not just affect elderly people. Whilst dementia in younger people is rare the symptoms are similar but the impact on the individual can be profound. Younger people are more likely to be in full time employment with financially dependent spouses/partners and children to care for coupled with significant financial commitments such as a mortgage.
It should also be noted people with dementia may feel sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them and there are of course significant legal and ethical issues surrounding people living with dementia. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is designed to protect the rights of people who can’t make decisions for themselves but it is so important any legal issues such as the preparation of a Will, and Lasting Power of Attorney are addressed before the individual becomes physically or mentally incapable of managing their affairs. Failure to do so may result in financial hardship for loved ones.
The Wills, Life Planning and Probate Team at Fisher Jones Greenwood know from personal experience what it is like caring for a close friend or relative with dementia and as such do everything they can to facilitate not only legal support for their clients but have due to their considerable experience over the years built up an extensive network of outside organisations including IFA’s, private care providers, home adaptation companies, benefit experts and physiotherapists to name a few who can work together to support those living with dementia and their families.
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