I visited my mother in her care home today and the nagging feeling of have we done enough resurfaced once again. Whilst having lost the ability to speak for quite a while my mother does make sounds and grunts to show she is trying to express herself – albeit to have a moan at me I am sure, but she is still clearly wishing to have her say even though she has very severe dementia. Something is clearly going on within her brain. Vascular dementia is the one where sufferers have a number of mini strokes or bleeds within the brain and over the years it has sometimes been very clear when this has happened. Over the last few years when she has noticeably had them, her physical condition and her mental ability has clearly been damaged. However slowly following months from a bleed her condition has improved – similar I imagine to any other stroke sufferer.
Since her last stroke a good 12 months ago, she had refused to put her dentures back in. My mother is from the generation where if your teeth weren’t great or in her case damaged from falling off a bike (I might have mentioned before that for all her organisational abilities which were great there were 3 basic things she never mastered – swimming, cycling and driving!), your teeth were whipped out pronto. Having no teeth really does affect your speech ability and at the time we put her lack of words etc down to this in particular rather than the loss of speech from the stroke. However as a dementia sufferer my mother as far as I am aware never received the type of aftercare normally given to someone who has had a stroke – presumably because she is earmarked with the word – dementia sufferer. Being given this label does it mean you aren’t entitled to such aftercare, as everyone is so quick to point out there is no cure and you only get worse? I noticed each time from a mini stroke – although clearly her dementia was worse she always improved. I am now concerned that perhaps we haven’t helped her enough. Today my brother suggested giving her a pen and paper. She immediately took it, held the pen correctly and tried to write. If I held her hand (although very tightly) she could write both her name and age – she was happy to be guided which is quite a feat in its own right as other carers will know getting a dementia sufferer to bend or do anything physically they don’t want to do is a huge battle.
I would be very interested if anyone knew about studies or even observations that have been done on treating the stroke element of a dementia sufferer.