The Caged Man.
I've been away quite a lot recently, for various reasons. One of them being a trip up to Manchester to see my father, who, as you may know is in a care home. A couple of years ago he had a stroke which left him with Vascular Dementia. Physically he looks like a much younger man. Mentally, he's just not there anymore
He recognises me when I arrive, but he has no recollection of his wife,his home,former life etc. If I show him photos of my mum and people on my iPad, he doesn't recognise them. Sometimes pictures of his mother and father from many, many years ago will spark off his long term memory, but generally t's all very sad and it's getting worse. Sessions with my father generally tend to involve him asking me the same question over and over again. Where am I living now, or what year is it.
It's as if he brain is trying to make sense of it all, but short circuiting at every turn.
The care home is full of elderly people with the same problem. Nationally it has become a huge, sad and increasing problem within the elderly population.
It's like a living death.
You have to treat the ladies and gentlemen within the care homes who have this dreadful condition - Dementia with utmost dignity.
What you see, is not what they were. Girls, young women, mothers, grandmothers. A life of education,careers, jobs, ambitions, boyfriends, lovers, husbands, children.
Men with jobs and ambitions etc.
This time, I came back more depressed.
My picture, The Caged Man is all about self-imprisonment. We build imaginary bars around ourselves. These can be made from all sorts of phobias, fears, self-inflicted barriers. bad habits, addictions, life choices. The thing is we can all climb out. The man in the picture, screaming, can, if he wants to, escape. It has to start with us wanting to and taking that first step towards release.
People with dementia like my father have no memory of past lives, no regrets because they can't remember the harm they might have done, things they might have said, people they might have hurt, but also the good times, the happy times, loving and caring for others.
All of us know somebody who has dementia. I just encourage everybody out there to remember them as they were, treat them with dignity and remember it's not their fault that they are in this condition.
For more information on Dementia click here www.ageuk.org.uk
Scroll down to the Dementia info section.