So here it is! The end of 2015. In just less than 12 hours, it will be 2016. Yet, I still can’t decide whether the past year went quickly or not. I tend not to count my year by days and months, but by the good times I’ve had and I’m very glad to say that this year, there has been many. Really, 2015 has been the best year I’ve had since all the water under the bridge – no unexpected long hospital stays, no nasty diagnoses and many a good memory made.
However, a defining moment of 2015 was to watch sudden decline of my lovely Grandad, Jim, a former member of the RAF and passionate diver, who has Dementia. If you have ever had a loved one who has had a Dementia or Alzheimer’s, then you will know how awful it is to watch them change from the person they once were, to someone you can barely recognise – or barely recognises you.
I’ve always been very close to my Grandad, but about a year ago, my family and I started to notice that, ever so slightly, he was changing. The change was slow at first, he became confused easily, was losing everything repeatedly and he also became more aggressive towards others – especially the neighbours. This wasn’t like our Jim but of course, as many would, we put it down to old age. I mean, for an 82 year old, he was doing exceptionally well. But, as time went on, everything became worse. I remember, the first time I really noticed a major difference was in May 2014 when my family and I threw him and my wonderful Grandma, Sylvia, a surprise Birthday party (they share the same birthday, same day, same year – made to be together or what?). A surprise party is a lot to take in for anyone, but my Grandad struggled to understand what was happening and I think in some cases, even struggled to recognise his family who had come to the party.
From then on it only got worse, until the aggression Jim was displaying shifted from the neighbours to his family, including my Grandma. Then Grandad couldn’t do things for himself, and relied completely on Grandma for everything. He stopped eating and found no enjoyment in anything. He injured himself constantly. Worse of all though, Jim was forgetting all the things that were important to him. Memories became distorted and he didn’t recognise some of the people he had been closest to. Around October 2015, Grandad was taken into hospital because he was constantly falling over and was unable to get up again. Then it was thought that he had an infection and he was soon after diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg. Things were going downhill fast as my family realised that we had to begin to accept that we had to say goodbye to my wonderful, jolly, full of life Grandad and work our hardest to make life as best we could for the new Jim. I felt that although he was not gone, I had lost my favourite man in the world.
After Grandma fractured her back lifting Jim off the floor, it was decided that it was no longer suitable for him to live at home. So he taken into a nursing home. After this there were a few improvements. Grandad perked up as he began to get used to his new home. Things got a little better for Grandma too. After months and months of nothing but looking after Jim, she finally had some moments to herself, although it was awful for her to have to learn to live mostly without her husband of 63 years. My Grandma is an amazing women, and I look up to her in every way and love her with all of my heart.
Only a few days before Christmas on the way to very successful heart transplant check up appointment in Newcastle, we got a call from Grandma telling us that Grandad had fallen and broken his hip in the care home, and was preparing for surgery in Addenbrookes Hospital as we spoke. This was devastating news – not what we expected to hear when Grandad was doing Okay. Anyway, he muddled through as always and we all visited him in Hospital on Christmas Day. This was heartbreaking. To see someone you love so much in so much pain and discomfort is awful. Especially on a day when the family is supposed to be together, happy and healthy. He barely recognises any of us now, and is so confused that sometimes he can’t even construct a sentence. What really gets me is he he asks to go home – I can’t stand telling him that he can’t. It was emotional to see him that way. But despite this, after we had said our goodbyes and headed back to my Grandma’s house, we had a lovely home cooked Christmas dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening together knowing that Grandad was in safe and caring hands.
Grandad has now returned to his nursing home. I guess he’s doing Okay, Okay as you can with a horrible disease like Dementia.
I would like to dedicate this blog post to James Wilson, my wonderful, happy Grandad – the man I will always remember him as. I love you Grandad, more than words can say and though one day soon you may not remember me, I will always remember you.
And with that, Happy New Year my wonderful friends and followers. I hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you and that you have a great New Years Eve, however you choose to spend it. See you on the other side!