Dementia is often described as ‘the long goodbye’ and can be a heart-breaking journey for all involved, both those who suffer from the condition and their families as well.
Now, members of a relatives’ support group are trying to help each other along that journey.
The group is made up of people whose loved ones live and lived in Sandringham Care Home in Portadown, but is open to anyone.
Although it was formed four years ago, the group is trying to spread its message further and is holding its next meeting in the Seagoe Hotel on Saturday, January 6 from 11-12 noon.
Guest speaker will be Aidan Hanna who leads the new charity, Northern Ireland Patient Voice, set up to support families who have patients in nursing homes and those receiving domiciliary care in the community.
One family relative said, “You love this person and you soon realise it’s like saying goodbye to them but over a much longer period of time.
“During this journey, it can be a heartbreaking time to watch your loved one forget things like your name, how to brush their hair or who they are when they look in the mirror.
“They may lose the ability to dress themselves, walk and even how to swallow.”
Another said, “It can also be a very difficult time when your loved one goes into a nursing home. This is their new home and, at first, you can think you are leaving them in the hands of strangers.
“Depending on what stage of dementia they are at, they can be standing at the door and wanting to go home with you... When you experience this firsthand it really is heartbreaking”.
The support group usually meets once a month and organises fundraising events such as coffee mornings. Some of the relatives also learned Spanish and go out for dinner together.
The group is grateful to the Hanna sisters who provide music therapy.