When I was a young girl, my great grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Before that, she was a loving, kind and gentle lady who always remembered my birthday and gave me lollies. She was diagnosed in the late 1980’s and when her symptoms and behaviours got too much, she was placed into a nursing home in Sydney Australia.
She was often isolated due to being deemed aggressive and my family members would seldom visit her often saying things like “what’s the point, she can’t remember us” or “She’s gone crazy”.
I remember going to visit my great grandmother and I hated it. I was about 8 years old. I remember the smell, the disengaged elderly and the way my grandmother looked, a shell of her former self. The nurses would say she was aggressive every time they tried to do something so they left her alone a lot.
My family and the nurses at that nursing home did not have a clear understanding of dementia. At the time I also didn’t understand, but now looking back, I am aware of the social isolation, loneliness and confusion she must have felt. It makes me sad to think of my grandmother this way and this is why it is so important to raise awareness about dementia. My family only focused on her behaviours and had forgotten who my grandmother was.
Now that I am heavily involved in training and education around dementia I often think of My Grandmother and wish it could’ve been different for her. We can’t change the past but we can certainly change the future.