Today I spent a lovely afternoon hosting a ‘Time for a cuppa’ afternoon for Dementia UK. I love to bake (and to eat!!!), so it was no hardship. Plus it was an opportunity to gather together my lovely friends from the local area and spend an afternoon chatting over a cuppa and a slice of cake. When I saw that Dementia UK were asking people to host tea parties across the country, to raise money for specialist dementia nurses (Admiral Nurses), I knew it was something I would love doing not only for the sheer joy of a baking extravaganza but also because it’s a cause that is close to my heart. A couple of years ago I spent six months working at a hospital in the orthopaedic trauma ward as a Nursing Assistant, there were plenty of sad things to be seen but dementia was one of the worst of them.
Recently my Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my family went through the heart-breaking decision of having to move her to a nursing home. I think the worst thing about dementia, particularly for family, is the way you lose someone over a protracted period watching parts of the person you know and love drift away. It can end up in what feels like an extended grieving process, they are still here but yet somehow they are not. It’s hard to know what to do with that, the right thing to say or do. You end up in a limbo situation, packing up their house as if they are gone and then popping down the road and finding them there sitting in their chair, looking just the same - but different somehow.
Working in the hospital was sometimes like a magnified version of being a bewildered family member. I found that in the most part even medical professionals have no idea how to treat people with dementia. They are as clueless as the rest of us as to what to say or how to calm down someone who just cannot understand your intentions. That’s why I think Admiral Nurses are so wonderful and so necessary. We need people to teach us how to care for people with dementia and how to get through it ourselves as loved ones. I remember one particular day in the hospital when I was caring for a lady with dementia, we sat and had a cup of tea together before I helped her to bed and she looked up at me and smiled as I tucked her in and said:
‘My dear, I’ve had such a lovely day.’
And so that’s why ‘Time for a cuppa’ made such sense to me, because even with dementia, we can have a really lovely day with a good friend to sit with us and nice a cup of tea.