Dementia: Fulwood: Living with someone who doesn't know who you are

Hilda Dixon
Hilda Dixon
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Half the time Hilda Dixon doesn’t recognise her own granddaughter, or even her daughter.

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She talks to the TV, won’t eat her food and thinks children are hiding in her loft.

Nicola Wilson (left) with her friend Danielle Brown, who helped her organise the charity event

Nicola Wilson (left) with her friend Danielle Brown, who helped her organise the charity event

Whilst the 83-year-old from Fulwood isn’t aware of her behaviour, her family can only watch on in despair as their loved one fades into a figure they hardly recognise through dementia.

Her granddaughter Nicola Wilson is her carer and admits she finds the task hard.

The 25-year-old says: “It is really difficult being her carer. My grandma is very stubborn and strong willed. Since her husband, Kenneth, died more than 30 years ago, she has been very independent, bringing up two children and providing for them.

“So it is difficult for her to now depend on other people.

Hilda Dixon

Hilda Dixon

“Grandma was diagnosed four years ago and over the last 18 months she has needed round-the-clock care. She is like a completely different person now and you can’t reason with her.

“I find it difficult to get her to eat, as she says she has already eaten or isn’t hungry.

“She can’t put her seat belt on in the car and she needs assistance.

“She never used to raise her voice but now she gets really angry. She doesn’t have social ability any more, as she talks over people.

“She talks to the TV, as if she is in the programme. Once she was watching something scary and she was behaving like it was in the room and we had to switch the TV off. Another time she tried to speak to Ant and Dec on I’m a Celebrity, but she can’t ever remember any of this.

“She thinks children are in her attic. I think this was from when she was younger and there were no walls dividing attics in terraced houses. She won’t leave her toothbrush in the bathroom because she thinks the children will steal it, so she hides it in her handbag.

“As a child, there was a little boy living next door and he used to steal things, so she accuses her next door neighbour of stealing things when she can’t find them.”

But one of the hardest things Nicola experiences is when she doesn’t recognise her or her mum.

She adds: “Grandma says she is not my mum’s mum and that they are just friends. She only thinks she has one son, which is my uncle.

“She doesn’t recognise me and can’t get her head around the fact we are related.

“It is heartbreaking to see. But it is even more upsetting for my mum. It is such a brutal disease.”

Nicola is now organising a gift fair fund-raiser this weekend in aid of Alzheimer’s Society to help raise awareness of dementia.

She adds: “A lot of people I speak to think dementia is just a memory loss disease. But they don’t realise it changes a person’s life and their personality. “It is like they go back to being a baby.

“There needs to be more research on it and more support.”

Nicola has been given support by Alzheimer’s Society and has learnt a lot by going on a course at Derby House in Fulwood.

She adds: “I learnt so much there. They described dementia and Alzheimer’s as being like a bookshelf and the illness rocks it.

“The shelves at the bottom are your childhood memories and the shelves work up in chronology, with the top things being the newest memories.

“As the shelf rocks, the top memories are the first to go and so that is why people with dementia forget their relatives.

“I was taught different tactics of how to deal with things and how whilst there are different forms, there are a lot of things in common.

“One example is the refusal to eat and we were old about using a red plate because it helps them see the food more clearly and recognise how much is on their plate.

“I also learnt about what benefits I would be entitled to as a carer and what benefits my grandma could have.”

Nicola is hoping to take what she has learnt and pass to others as part of her charity awareness event on Saturday February 10 at the Ancient Oak pub, in Merrytrees Lane, Cottam. The event runs from 11am until 4pm. Entry is £1.

She adds: “I am holding a gift fair with a Valentine’s theme. There will be stalls such as The Body Shop, Ann Summers, and sweet stuff and we will have a raffle.

“All money will go towards Alzheimer’s Society. I also want to raise awareness of the disease. I have been sent some leaflets to give out and I will be handing out contact details for support which I found really useful.”

Useful numbers

Lancashire Care NHS Memory Assessment Service, Cottage Lane, Bamber Bridge 01772 401621

Alzheimer’s Society, Lytham Road, Fulwood 788700

Central Lancashire Memory Service, Charnley Fold, Bamber Bridge 01772 401621