After nearly six years of owning and running a busy care company, as the Managing Director with 10 members of staff in the office, I find I am less and less at the coal face, dealing with clients and CAREGivers.
So when the opportunity arises to spend some time with a client, I jump at the chance.
I was very fortunate to spend some time with one lady this week who has reminded me how being a CAREGiver is so very rewarding but also very emotional.
I was accompanying Celia to our quarterly Theatre trip in Wimbledon, giving her husband a few hours respite.
Celia is delightful. She is interested in everything - lively, bright and bubbly. She is young and vibrant and loves fashion, jewellery, shoes, singing, dancing and everything sparkling in between - a lady after my own heart.
Celia has dementia.
Nothing you can see about her gives this away. She is funny and engaging and loves to chat, but behind all this is a lady who is finding life quite hard. She has lost the ability to turn a tap on. She doesn’t remember what the sink is for. Closing and locking the door of the cubicle in the Ladies, was even more complicated and caused her anxiety as she couldn’t understand why she didn’t know what to do.
I noticed she looked in the mirror and started talking to her reflection, clearly not recognising herself anymore. She couldn’t work out where to put her hat. It certainly wasn’t on her head.
In the close confines of a busy theatre, Celia’s spacial awareness was compromised and she struggled to shuffle down the row to her seat asking many times what was going on.
Celia knows she has Alzheimer’s and gets very frustrated with the words not flowing freely but I was able to reassure her that everything was ok and not to worry. She was happy to walk arm in arm and chat about her parents and her life as a child.
But, after we sat down and the show started, nothing mattered, as the Music Hall melodies and dancing started. She was captivated, sung her heart out, remembering all the words to songs from yesteryear! She remembered every word! Jokes were funny and the dancing made her sway and clap her hands.
For those few hours, she was just Celia, having a lovely time. Not worrying about anything. Not concerned that things didn’t make sense. It was clear and colourful and enjoyable and familiar.
Those few hours also helped her husband, who has been her carer for years. He had the chance to be himself for a short while, take some time out from watching, checking, helping, explaining and loving his wife.
It was hard being there with Celia, watching her cope with a disease where there is no hope. It reminded me why the care we provide to the Celias of this world is so valuable, but also the support we give to those unsung heroes who are caring for someone they love, often for years, with little respite or breaks from the fatigue of compassion, is also such a lifeline.
I am looking forward to seeing Celia again. In a short space of time, I felt I connected with her and understood her limitations, but also could see past the dementia and saw Celia, the fun, excitable, fashion loving, dancing queen who is clearly loved by many.