Mike joined us for the first time. He had an injury 2001 years ago. He was living in Australia at the time. He became quite forgetful and went from being right handed to left handed after the accident. Nevertheless, he’s a musician and continued drumming to a high standard. He played at large concerts and filled his life with music.
However, both of his parents live in Wales. They were diagnosed as having dementia. Mike loves them and he came to Wales over 4 months ago to do what he can to help them through this phase of their lives. He is well connected in Australia so coming to Wales has been a shock. He expected to be able to slot into different music groups here, but there have so far been few opportunities. He said that Sidney, where he comes from, has a huge variety of musical opportunities – he said that everything he’s so far come across here has been less sophisticated than what is available in Sidney.
He is torn between going back to his good life in Australia and his desire to help his parents. He said that they appreciate his efforts, particularly the shopping he does for them. However, their personal hygiene has deteriorated. He has difficulty coping with this especially as his mother cooks the family meals. His efforts to change that behaviour have failed.
Barbara said that people with cognitive problems are often quite happy with the decline in hygiene standards. We asked if that decline significantly endangers them in any way. If not, then it is perhaps reasonable to accept their right to lower their standards. We asked if there were any more serious dangers such as a tendency to forget to turn off the burner under chip pan after use or a risk of falling. Mike said that they were safe in that respect.
Barbara emphasised the fact that they would get most from loving assistance. For example, Mike might increase the frequency of hand washing if he encouraged and helped his mother to wash and to manicure her nails – pampering might improve hygiene.
We also focused on the fact that some people have mild cognitive impairment for many years.
His parents are denying having significant limitations. If their condition progresses, they might for example drive when they no longer have the capacity to do that safely. If Mike is the one that informs the DVLA, then they are liable to get angry with him. That would mean that he’d be less able to provide emotional support. So, we suggested that he considers involving the GP, who would monitor her condition or would refer her to a clinic that would monitor her progress over the years.
We talked about the magnitude of the task Mike is taking on. If his relative isolation continues, then he is going to become unhappy. Also, helping 2 people with dementia remember plans etc is challenging. However, if the helper is also very forgetful himself (and Mike is forgetful), then the challenge might become impossibly difficult.
The long-term outcome is far from clear at this point, so we raised the possibility that Mike might set himself medium-term goals – goals that he aims to achieve in the next 6 months. He would try to achieve some of these goals for himself (eg connect with more music groups) and other goals for his parents (eg link them in with their GP). He would review his progress at the end of the 6 months. If it turns out that he hasn’t moved much further forward then he might consider the possibility of returning to Australia. If he has moved forward to some extent, then he might decide that that progress is sufficient to warrant him setting a new set of medium-term goals. If the progress from the next set of medium term goals is insufficient, then he might ultimately decide that he’s not achieving for his parent or for himself – in that case he might decide to return to Australia. If he makes good progress, then he may set a third set of medium term goals etc etc.
The next meeting will be at 1.15pm on Monday 10th July 2017 in Llewellyn Hall, Swansea Road, SA4 9AQ (Take the Gorseinon exit from Junction 47 of the M4, turn first left at the next roundabout, and Llewellyn Hall is almost on the immediate left, next to the church).