How do I explain to my son why his he can go to some of Great Grandparents houses, but he has to visit one in a care home? How do I explain to him that a care home is not a hospital or the doctors, despite the similarities? How do I explain why his Great Nanny gets confused, or angry, or cries, or says things that upset daddy?
For an adult these things are overwhelming and for us there are many other health issues that need to be taken into account, not just the dementia, that hit hard and fast and appeared almost like a side affect to a fall but never left.
If we find visiting difficult and upsetting, how must it make him feel? As L’s mum my primary concern is him and there are times when visiting his Great Nanny are not appropriate. As a wife my primary concern is my husband and seeing him visit his Nan and her confusion and fear shake him is hard. As a family member though our concern is about her, we worry that she is getting the care she needs, that she is happy, that we maximise the good moments and find ways to deal with the bad moments.
Little L tends to be one of her more regular good moments, she can always remember him, always! To the stage when early on, when things were really bad and we were sill figuring a lot of things out, one of the many Doctors actually ‘prescribed’ a visit.
Balancing all these needs is hard but my biggest concern is how to explain it to a two year old, it’s been ongoing for a while now, so I doubt he remembers anything different but he knows something isn’t right.
We keep our conversations simple and we make sure to do what he wants. If we are visiting and he doesn’t want a kiss and cuddle from his Great Nan, then we respect that, the same goes if he wants to leave or if the conversation takes a turn that we don’t want him to hear. Then the conversation changes and it is more about explaining it to her, which can be just as hard.
We’ve explained that his Nan isn’t very well which is why she doesn’t live in her own house, we’ve explained that sometimes she doesn’t remember things and that makes her sad, we’ve explained that sometimes we can’t stay long and that sometimes he will hear things he shouldn’t be worried by. At the end of the day he is two years old and we will likely be having these conversations with him for many years to come, but I think it is worthwhile to start now. He knows if has any questions he can ask us, so far all he is interested in is why he’s not allowed to play with her walking frame!
For us we have found the best visits are when they are both occupied with something fun, it’s nicer for everyone, we don’t have to worry about him causing mischief with the beds and the buttons. She is happy because he will sit next to her whilst they play or paint or attempt a puzzle together. There is a lot to be said for distraction, if her mind is busy with something then the conversations for us are nicer, if L is busy with something fun then he doesn’t bore so quickly and the visit can last longer and be less stressful.
It is also nice to bring a gift, that’s just good visiting etiquette, so to bring something that is lovely as well as useful and helpful can only be a good thing. Active Minds make some great products, designed specifically to help those with Dementia. We love the personalised puzzles and the art kits are very good too.
Good visits are important, as good visits create good memories and more than anything we want our son to have good memories of his Great Grandparents, all of them. He is lucky enough to have them in his life and time with them is all too precious.
So how will I explain dementia to my son, honestly, I still don’t know. What I can tell you is that it will be one step at a time, it will be honestly and openly and it will be as many times and in as many ways as he needs.
Disclosure – this is a sponsored post