The dark side of ageing:my experience with Dementia

You don’t realise how good you have it until you walk into someone elses’ home and see how they live. It’s week 3 of my new job as a care worker, I’m mentally exhausted as fuck and felt the need to write this short post as I just need to vent (and also educate). My job involves working with the elderly in their homes helping with activities of daily living (personal care, respite and social support). I could be showering and helping one client get dressed and then be having a coffee with my next client to keep them company which is not hard for me and I find it so humbling being able to help older people. However, we haven’t gone through much at uni about patients with dementia as of yet so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began working with them but I have worked with 2 level 7 (last stage) dementia clients within the last 2 weeks and my heart is actually broken.

 

Imagine one day just forgetting everything you have ever known in your entire life. How to walk, to talk, to eat, remember your family and friends, take care of yourself- literally everything. This is what it would be like to live with the final stages of dementia. It was my second day of training and my client schedule was all over the place, the rostering team attempting to schedule clients in which I can go to with a trainer. My trainer tried to thoroughly prepare me for my first ever dementia client but nothing could have prepared me enough. I saw this beautiful, frail, elderly lady and honestly she didn’t look alive (in the bluntest way possible). I literally gasped, held back tears and my trainer went on to explain how she cried when she first saw her too (I felt slightly better knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings). I spent the next hour feeding this lady a tub of yogurt and giving her water through a syringe. Someone who, for the last 80 years had raised children, grandchildren, got married and had a career. It’s hard to believe that she now can’t even swallow water on her own. I was lucky enough that she was actively responding this day (she usually seems mostly sleep), saying “yep” and really enjoying her yogurt. I felt accomplished and like I had made a difference just having a chat to her.

 

Today was my 2nd time experiencing the life of someone with dementia. I see another gorgeous elderly lady (who also looked gone, it’s so horrible and hard to explain) with the most adoring, doting husband who would have also been about 80-years-old waiting on her every second. Another carer and I had to use a lifter to help her out of a chair as she has literally forgotten how to even move. We changed her pad (like an elderly persons’ nappy) and put her in her pyjamas in bed. She had never had a care worker come into the home before and I can’t even describe the look on her face when we began trying to help her. She was screaming out (just making noise as she can no longer speak) and was so confused as to what was going on. I held back tears the entire time. She held my hand so tight and I squeezed it back to ensure her she was okay (as much as you try to explain things they really don’t understand you, kind of like a newborn baby). Looking around the home there were wedding pictures, photos of kids, grandkids and various holiday photos lining the walls- now she lives like this. As soon as I finished the service I got into my car and bawled my eyes out the whole 40 minutes home.

 

These women had years of life experience and now they are forever trapped in their own minds until the day that they leave for heaven. My heart hurts for their families who have to see them in such a state. When we think of aging all we seem to think about is “oh ew I’m gonna have wrinkles and get fat” (literally what I thought about before I started working as a carer, which is such a typical millennial thing to do lmao I am a bitch but I’m learning). Aging hurts, not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Your body doesn’t work like it used to and neither does your brain in some cases. Take advantage of everything that you have been given because one day it will be all gone. Go to the gym, spend time with your family, go on that holiday (you can’t take money with you) and eat all the hard shit you can (you eventually won’t have teeth). Most importantly- tell your grandparents how much you love them, soak up their knowledge and ask them questions about their childhood because they wont be here forever. This job has allowed me to mature so much already and has been the most humbling things I have ever done- I cant wait to be able to make a difference in more peoples lives through my journey in aged care.