This is the last picture that I have with my grandma within our family home; now she is unable to leave the care home as the Dementia has taken hold so tightly it simply wouldn’t be safe. She would either get lost, or the confusion around not recognising her surroundings would be too emotionally distressing. She won’t be able to remember celebrating this Christmas, even though it is only 2 years ago; she doesn’t recognise me anymore.
But each time I see her, she welcomes me with a smile that stretches from ear to ear and chats to me as if we are family and not strangers. While the grandma that I grew up with may be lost behind the haze of Dementia, the Grandma I have gained is possibly living her best life. Her imagination has become her reality and so she tells tales of travelling to far out places, eating new foods and staring in TV shows.
She has never travelled to America, but she recalls stories of how she and Grandad struggled with the heat and played volleyball with the locals on Miami beach. She has never liked ham, but is convinced that she eats it regularly everyday and that it is one of her favourite meals. The last time I saw her, I couldn’t help but laugh as she was most perturbed that she had been given chicken instead of her favourite ham: she didn’t enjoy lunch that day! Emmerdale was always one of her favourite TV programmes and would watch it religiously. Dementia has now taken her on a journey of staring in Emmerdale over the years and she recalls most vividly lambing the sheep on Emmerdale Farm and teaching the cast and crew how to Foxtrot (in Wellingtons)!
While Grandma is physically now unable to leave the grounds of the care home, in her mind and in our conversations, she leaves on a regular basis. She is happy and loving travelling to far forgotten imaginative memories in her mind. Her life may be different now, but her new life certainly comes before her disability.