Giving dementia the shove with purpose

when John’s mum came to live with us last year, she was an elderly lady who was becoming frail, forgetful and lonely. She most of her day watching television alone or meeting the occasional neighbour for an organ recital (it’s what we call it when people get together and moan bout their organs and ill health) and had no sense of purpose. She felt like she’d lived the most important part of her life and was now getting ready to die.

We’ve been in Wales with her since December 2014 and from the first month here, I started to suggest ways she could get out a bit, including doing some volunteering at the local Red Cross shop in Llandovery. After a little gentle persuasion, she went to explore it in February. And we haven’t looked back.

she’s a new person. She’s gone from someone who saw the negative in everything, someone who always moaned about her day, to a woman with a smile constantly on her face and a positive story to share about the day she’s had.  She works there every day except Sunday and even went to work on the last bank holiday. And every day she comes home with a sense of achievement and purpose. People are popping in to the shop just to see her and have a chat, she’s part of a team and a community.

I’d love politicians to see the kind of impact this can have in a very short time for elderly people. Elma had worked all her life, often in multiple jobs at a time to keep their head above water and then, aged 65, she stopped; not gradually, just stopped over night. The job title that had defined her for so much of her adult life had gone. Who was she meant to be now? When she lost her husband, John’s dad Alf, this sense of total lack of importance became overwhelming.

yet now, she is making a contribution to a charity and the people of a community, she’s watching less television (positive mentally and  economically as it means heating and electricity are turned off all day) And it’s costing the Government nothing, indeed I’d suggest it’s saving them money as she’s healthier and happier and thus less likely to need assistance.

It wasn’t an easy decision to live with mum-in-law, but I’m proud of us for taking the choice and making such a difference to Elma. She’s 78 years young this month and looking younger every day!

dinah x

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