1. girl-next-door

    girl-next-door Registered User

    Jul 22, 2015
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Hello Everyone,

    My neighbour is in her 80's, we have lived next door to her for 8 years, she is a retired doctor, never married or had children and has been highly intelligent and fiercely independent all her life. Her nearest relations are second cousins who live nearly two hours drive away and have some health concerns of their own. I have been very worried about my neighbour's memory recently and have tried to talk to her about it but she becomes quite cross and changes the subject. This week her cousins visited and I hped to speak to them but I couldn't find a reason to speak to them alone, today I received a call from them asking if I was aware that my neighbour had been diagnosed with Dementia. I was actually hugely relieved to get this call because I was very worried but didn't know what to do, not being a family member. My neighbour's cousins only discovered the news yesterday as the GP had visited while they were there, my neighbour denies there is a problem.

    I have offered to do whatever I can to help but my neighbour is refusing help from everyone. I think she is angry and embarrassed and I can understand completely why she should feel like this. However, I am concerned she is not eating (my family are vegetarian and she refuses any food I have offered saying she doesn't like vegetables). I have offered to either take her to appointments or at least make sure she is in a taxi to get her there (I have 4 children and a husband who works away from home a lot) but she refuses to tell me she has any appointments when I know from her cousins that this is not the case.

    I know that it is hugely important to her that she stays in her own home and maintains her independence for as long as possible and I will do my absolute best to help her maintain this.

    Should I confront her directly and tell her that I know she has dementia? How bossy should I be in terms of checking her cupboards to make sure she has eaten?
    I have no experience of dementia at all, I want to do the right thing but I haven't a clue. Any advice would be really appreciated.

    Thank you
  2. Sue J

    Sue J Registered User

    Dec 9, 2009
    I'd take her a non-vegetarian meal, it will get her on your side before you start a too 'heavy handed' approach, the latter will likely make things worse. Try and find a good taxi firm and give her their card.

    Sorry can't write too much.
    She is lucky to have a neighbour like you:)
    Best wishes
  3. jugglingmum

    jugglingmum Registered User

    Jan 5, 2014
    Hello and welcome to TP.

    I had no experience of dementia until I realised with a crisis happening my mum had had it for a few years, we all learn as we go along.

    The starting point is to understand that the person with dementia often doesn't realise anything is wrong. I think their brain still thinks they can do things and the thing that makes sense is that they must have done what they should have done they must be capable of what they are trying to do. Confrontation often doesn't work.

    If you read around a few of the threads you will realise that the problems you highlight come up again and again and there are no easy answers. All you can do is keep offering help. If your relationship is such that you can be persuasive and she will accept help for some things, that is as far as you can manage.

    Often it seems, even with close family a crisis has to happen to get things sorted for them. If social services are contacted, at this stage she is likely to say she is fine and they won't interfere until further down the line.

    You have a young family and there is only so much you can do.
  4. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    #4 Beate, Jul 23, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
    The problem is that if someone doesn't want help there isn't really much you can do until a crisis happens. Social Services should be made aware she is vulnerable and at risk but to be honest, while I am sure you are trying to help, and it's good you are keeping an eye on her, I wouldn't be roped in as a carer. You're not a relative so the GP and the authorities might not speak to you about her anyway. The cousins ought to get the ball rolling with needs assessments and obtaining POA etc. All you can really do is offer a helping hand and hope she takes you up on it. Why not just visit for a cup of tea and a friendly chat now and then and bring cake - definitely no vegetables in there unless it's carrot cake! You can then report back to the cousins if there are more problems or concerns. The one thing you shouldn't do is waltz in and try to take over inspecting cupboards - she won't thank you for it.

    Also, don't confront her about her dementia. Here's a very good link about compassionate communication: http://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/show...ionate-Communication-with-the-Memory-Impaired
  5. theunknown

    theunknown Registered User

    Apr 17, 2015
    I think you sound like a wonderful neighbour. So many people are left in isolation with no-one caring about what may be happening to them.

    You sound very much like my mum's neighbours who were concerned about my mum long before I realised anything was wrong, because my mum was covering it up with me. All I can suggest is keep doing what you're doing, ie keeping a watchful eye out and getting in touch with people who can help if you feel you need to. My mum's neighbours tried to help with taking round food, but my mum's response was they ate a lot of spicy food, which she didn't like. She definitely wasn't eating enough on her own.

    In my mum's case it was only when she was taken to hospital, and consequently sectioned, that she seemed to understand that the neighbours had been on her side all along. For a while she turned against her family, and felt that the only person who understood what was happening to her was the neighbour.
  6. Chemmy

    Chemmy Registered User

    Nov 7, 2011
    Welcomes TP from me too. If only everyone had a neighbour like you:)

    I do agree, however, that you have to be careful not to overstep the boundaries. Elderly neighbours (and mothers in law) without dementia can also become very offended by what they see as interference, however well-meant, so I agree with Beate, no looking in cupboards.

    Would offering a portion of 'shepherds pie' or 'sausage' casserole (made with quorn or whatever) which you had 'left over' be acceptable? Maybe a 'spare' slice of apple pie/crumble or an extra trifle with some fruit in it? Just little gestures, offered every so often, might break through her resistance. "Otherwise it'll just go to waste.." Softly, softly...

    Being the family's ear and eyes, alerting them when necessary, is probably the most appropriate role.
  7. CeliaW

    CeliaW Registered User

    Jan 29, 2009
    Difficult situation but a possible small thought relating to payback. Are there any small ways she could "help" you (or has helped in the past)? You could then say something along the lines of you helped me so much with x, I am so glad it's my turn to pay back your kindness with the little I can do - some people can accept help more easily if it's seen as more of a balance of give and take. Good luck and thanks for being a thoughtful neighbour, the community needs more of them!
  8. girl-next-door

    girl-next-door Registered User

    Jul 22, 2015
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Thanks for your help everyone.

    It's not in my nature to 'bulldoze' into her house or cupboards - that's why I needed advice, if it was something I was going to need to do, I would have to build up the courage to do it - I am very glad it's the wrong thing to do!

    Having read all your comments and I talked to her cousin this morning, I can see how I can keep everything casual and neighbourly whilst being more alert than before I realised there was a problem.

    I feel so sad that this has happened to her, she has had a fascinating life in Canada and on remote Scottish Islands. I really think it is important to help her keep her dignity and independence for as long as possible.

    Thanks again - may be back for more advice at a later date!
  9. LadyB

    LadyB Registered User

    Feb 19, 2013
    I came on this website about four years ago, concerned about my Dad's memory. Four years on we still have no diagnosis but he is definitely worse. They say it's not Alzheimers so maybe vascular dementia or just dementia. What I have learnt is that he is a bit angry at once 'being someone' who was respected and listened to, and he doesn't feel he gets the same respect now. He picks up that people don't respond to his suggestions and advice but doesn't realise his advice isn't the best. He was an architect. Your neighbour was a doctor. I'm sure she knows things are amiss, but like my Dad, she is doing her best to not show the world, and try to hold on to 'normality'. I've learnt there is nothing to be gained from pointing out his errors or winning an argument. Short sentences, simple sentences, as the lady said before, pacifying talk like 'left over cake' or 'would you help me out by taking this...' My Dad responds well to being made to feel useful. If you try to do too much for them, they feel useless, so it's all about little steps, sympathising about how confusing or time consuming things can be ('would you like me to have a go?') and also supporting by saying 'ah, we all forget things/names/what I came in the room for/which actor that is on tv etc etc'. It is soul destroying, its a cruel disease that robs some of their life. I am slowly getting my Mum used to the idea he will gradually get worse so make the most of now, and try not to get too frustrated. My Grandad had Alzheimers. He was my fathers father and I'm sure that's not helping, in that my Dad knows the way he is heading. Support, kindness, a watchful eye, and patience is the best you can do. Its very kind of you to have such a caring attitude, and want to extend that care. I believe in karma for good souls like you!


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