Living with dementia is scary!  And I mean scary for the person who has it and for their carers.  We have been living with and caring for my elderly mother-in-law, Mary, in her house for the last six years.  

Previously an active, social and caring type with an academic background and who speaks 4 different languages, Mary spent 20 years teaching History at secondary school in the area.  To cut a long story short she is, of course, no longer the same by any means and has lost much of her ability to cope with and understand even the simplest of tasks.  Yet she still has a twinkle in her eye, a very mischievous streak, and loves us all just as much as she always did - that's her son, me, her granddaughter, and now our new Cockapoo puppy.

No matter how positive we try to be it is by no means always rosy; the sarcasm, self-pity, cantankerous episodes as Maria also learns to live with her condition can be immensely tiring.  This is where the help and complete understanding of Dementia Concern has been invaluable, and we are all learning to live a more rewarding life together, even as Mary's health deteriorates.

Pre-lockdown, Mary had regular visits and assessments from Dementia Concern and, as more attention and stimulation became necessary, the lovely staff there helped us to encourage Maria to join various clubs where she could spend a full day enjoying the company of others with dementia and staff.  Activities were always fun.  I know this because, despite Maria never remembering exactly what she had done there all day (par for the course), she had a 'feeling' it was very pleasurable mixing with 'old friends' and eating a nice meal together.  She certainly always arrived home with a skip in her step and we relaxed knowing that she was in the safest hands from pick-up to drop-off (all provided by Dementia Concern).

Dementia Concern runs various clubs according to need and also a Call and Care service for home visits.  These can give carers some much needed respite as well as being a positive experience for the person with dementia.  For us, the clubs allow us to get some quality time focusing on work (which we are fortunate enough to be able to do from home) as well as time to devote solely to our daughter.  She has just turned 12 and, despite always being the most loving and caring granddaughter, needs time off too.

During lockdown, we have all missed Mary's weekly and fortnightly clubs, but Dementia Concern staff still call every week for a chat with both Mary and me to see how we are all getting on.  They really care and their weekly call is always a refreshing moment of light relief for us both- thanks John! They have also dropped activity parcels off at the door which have included little biscuit treats and knitted treats amongst the colouring and fun-fact sheets.  A real treat that always thrills Mary and helps us to keep her occupied with new ideas.

Overall, I can say that Dementia Concern provides amazing care, support and genuine friendship to people with dementia and their families/carers.  We couldn't live without them and can't wait for the clubs to reopen post-lockdown when it's safe to do so.  I only hope that people will help fund this much needed resource in the community so that everyone dealing with dementia can benefit just as we are, and continue to do so.  Unfortunately, government cuts in spending on social care have very detrimental impacts on organisations like Dementia Concern that provide so much solace in times of need.