Is it my imagination or is the media these days full of references to dementia? For years it was the sickness which dare not speak its name (probably because most of the sufferers couldn’t remember it). Now, it marches along in headlines, matching the latest statistics showing how the percentage of the population over 65 is growing at a pace faster than most of us can walk.
Alas, it has a particular relevance to the Wilcox household. My dear wife of many years – yes, that wife – was diagnosed with Alzheimers just over a year ago. We were told it was in its early stages and that drugs would hold back its advancement for about two years before it became worse. Well, they did not.
This terrible disease was complemented by a heart condition, aortic stenosis, which is also incurable, except by open heart surgery to replace the faulty aortic valve, which was ruled out because it was unlikely that Betty would survive the surgery. Then, just to cheer everyone up, she contracted pneumonia and was rushed into hospital. It was touch and go for a while, but good old antibiotics saved her life.
That was back in January of this year. At first she was given about a week to live. But she got rid of the pneumonia, leaving her, of course, with “merely” the Alzheimers and the heart condition, both of which are incurable. So she is still with us.
With us (my daughter and I, that is) but not with us. For she has now been lying in her bed for nine months in a full service care home some twelve miles from home. I visit her virtually every day. She knows me and our daughter and is ridiculously caring about us but she has no idea where she is and doesn’t remember our visits. So she lies in bed every day, doubly incontinent, completely bed-ridden in that she can’t walk or stand, and partly blind. She could well go on for weeks or even months yet, we are told.
Such full time care is very expensive, of course, and could not be administered from home. The NHS has refused to give any financial contribution, except at the most basic level, so the savings I have carefully built up to buttress us until I do win that elusive Booker are dwindling fast.
So why tell you all this? Well, it does have a relevance to my writing, in that I have lost a loving research assistant (more of that later) and my visits take a good two to three hours out of my working day. But mainly this blog is designed to throw some light on the horrible day-to-day facts behind the headlines; the damnation, if you like, behind the dementia.
And, if I must be frank, it is also an attempt to explain why there has been such a horrible gap since the publication of my last blog. I beg your indulgence.