Paul and Maureen have been married for 17 years and together for 22. Both keen ballroom dancers, their lives changed dramatically after Maureen had a stroke and developed mixed dementia in February 2013. Today Paul, who is Maureen’s Care Partner, tells us about the one-to-one support he receives from his Admiral Nurse.
I have been using the NAViGO Admiral Nurse Service for eighteen months. I think I picked up a leaflet somewhere about Admiral Nurses or it could have been something I was made aware of at the Memory Clinic.
At our first meeting my Admiral Nurse, Heather, listened to mine and Maureen’s story about symptoms and diagnosis. I recall a very friendly chat in our own home where Heather just gave us the chance to talk. She gave us some basic information and left her contact details. Following that initial meeting I always saw Heather alone as the service is about supporting carers, like me.
One of the most important things that Heather brought to my attention was the work of Teepa Snow, a leading dementia and Alzheimer’s care expert. Heather lent me one of Teepa’s DVDs. It was a revelation as it introduced me to a whole new way of looking at dementia. I found it so helpful to watch Teepa in action and see the ways in which she brings about positive communication, that after I had watched the DVD a couple of times I bought my own copy.
Heather has supported me in all sorts of ways. I generally met her in a local café for about an hour once a month to discuss how things were going. On occasions I would also e-mail her for advice and phone her for support. There were particular times when I just couldn’t fathom Maureen’s presentation and to be able to run it by Heather on the phone really helped.
One of the main lessons that Heather taught me was the importance of keeping a positive atmosphere in the home environment. She particularly stressed the importance of eye contact and body language. Just picking up little things like holding Maureen’s hand to ease her along have made such a difference.
Becoming a Care Partner where dementia is in your household is a tough mountain to climb. Having a guide who helps you to find your own way to supporting someone who has dementia is so important. When the going gets tough to know that there is someone at the end of the phone to ease your furrowed brow or stop you beating yourself up is such a bonus.
Once you become a Care Partner you have to find your own way of coping with dementia. Without Heather I would have gone under on many a difficult day. Recently Heather moved to New Zealand, it was sad to say goodbye after how much support and compassion Heather had given me. Fortunately not long after I had the chance to meet my new Admiral Nurse, Mel. After my first meeting with Mel, I am so relieved that there is more of the same on offer. My advice to anyone who needs advice on how to live well with dementia is check out if there are Admiral Nurses in your area: if there are, contact them right now!
Paul shares his experiences as a Care Partner on his personal blog ‘Memory Issues: Our journey with mixed dementia’ you can read more here
If you find that there is no service in your area, you can call our Admiral Nursing Direct national helpline to get specialist help and advice from an Admiral Nurse.