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Problems caring for MIL as English is her second language/she really doesn't like me

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by Annie C, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    #1 Annie C, Oct 15, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
    I'm wondering if any one has any advice to offer re. caring/getting the right care for someone whose first language is different to their own.

    My MIL left Poland during WW2 when she was just 8 (a few weeks after witnessing the death of her mother). She survived time in Siberia and India (we're talking the Catholic 'holocaust' here not the Jewish) and came to the UK aged 16 and unable to speak any English but with smatterings of a couple of other languages. She married another Polish refugee (FIL, died 19 years ago) and Polish was spoken in their home exclusively until my husband and his brother were in their teens when they rebelled and starting speaking English, which by then was definitely their first language (they both only spoke Polish until they went to school).

    During the 80s my parents in law became shopkeepers and their English improved to the extent that my mother in law says that that was when she started to think in English. But her English vocabulary has always been too limited to allow for fine distinctions in meaning.

    I am really struggling sometimes to tell if some of the nonsense she spouts is the AZ or her diminshing grasp of English. I suspect that if I could speak with her in Polish things might make more sense, although I'm sure she would still have word retrieval problems in any language. But when it comes to things like her recent agreement to a DNR I honestly have no idea if she has properly grasped what it is.

    My approach is usually to use very simple English and test her understanding with gentle questioning, but I'm concerned that as her early years continue to become more immediate to her this language mismatch will become more problematic. I've tried to learn some simple Polish, but I always was hopeless at languages so that wasn't very sucessful. And although my husband and his brother's remnants of Polish are probably up to the task neither is generally available to attend appointments with her, or even to visit her that often (through no fault of their own).

    On a completely different note there is so much love for those you are caring for in evidence on this forum that I almost feel ashamed. I can't pretend that I have any reason to love my MIL, in fact quite the opposite, maybe her experiences as a refugee made her what she became but she was really not a nice person and AZ hasn't changed that. I am doing my best for her, as patiently as I can, but I wonder sometimes if someone she actually liked would be able to coax more from her than I can.

    Any advice as to how to navigate all this would be most gratefully received.
     
  2. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,740
    Hi there, Welcome!
    This is a difficult one for you!
    I have no direct experience but just a thought - we have quite a large Polish community where we live, I wondered if you have similar or if you could find one or two people who would be willing to just come and chat to her in Polish it might give her a lift and make her feel less isolated and you a break? Sometimes it is easier to access the communities online or to ask locally. We have close Polish friends and their community is so lovely and kind and they will do anything to help - perhaps you can tap into similar?

    You are really kind taking this on, she probs isn't aware of how lucky she is. Everyone is here to support you, keep posting x
     
  3. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    5,751
    Female
    Scotland
    In most cities in the UK there are Polish clubs, churches or church members and Polish shops. I am sure there must be some organisation with a volunteer who would come and visit and speak with this lady to see if the problem is a language one. It is possible that her comprehension would be lacking in any language and that would put your mind at rest.

    Go online and see what is available in your area.
     
  4. Kevinl

    Kevinl Registered User

    Aug 24, 2013
    4,740
    Salford
    Hi Annie
    Could you get someone Polish to talk to her and see if she "spouts nonsense" in Polish too. Possibly take her to the local Polish shop (there's plenty around) and see if she reacts to other people speaking Polish.
    In the Manchester area there are several Polish Social Clubs and a couple of day centres which cater specifically for Polish people, have a google around you might find something or you could ask around in the Polish community.
    K
     
  5. Boldredrosie

    Boldredrosie Registered User

    Mar 13, 2012
    237
    Annie C
    I'm not sure I'm going to be able to offer you much help but I can certainly sympathise. My mother was a child in occupied Europe, although older than your MiL and I truly believe some of the awful things she saw (although she, herself, was physically unscathed) laid the foundations of an adulthood of mental health problems, which in themselves have made her vulnerable to dementia.

    She moved to the UK to marry my Dad but the difference between her and your MiL is that she was actually an English teacher and as my Dad didn't speak her language English was always the language in our house. I think that probably at some point her interior language must have become English although I live in terror of her losing English as she already is difficult to look after and barely understands what you say to her any more. Her brother-in-law (also lived through WWII in occupied Europe) who worked in the US and in Holland has now lost both his English and Dutch and my aunt, his wife, is struggling to find a care solution for him with people who can communicate with him.

    You don't mention in your post who, other than yourself, is taking care of MiL or what services she's accessing. Have you accessed any help from some of the long-established Polish communities in England? Do your MiL's doctors have any advice? After all she can't be the only old lady with dementia in their care for whom English isn't their first language.

    Finally, don't be ashamed. Dementia is vile and I can truthfully say that on top of what was always a very demanding, bullying personality, my mother's dementia has ensured that my care of her is done out of duty and definitely not out of love.
     
  6. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    Hello Fizzie, and thank you for the encouragement :)

    She does actually belong to her local Polish church but she relies on a 92 year to drive her there (it's in the next town) and he is now ailing and can't always get out. She does have a few older friends at the church who visit her at home once a month so I could have a word with them. She often complains that the younger Poles who've recently immigrated speak a different kind of Polish but I suspect that that may just be because they speak Polish faster and with different accents (the part of Poland she is from is now in Ukraine).
     
  7. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    Yes I did wonder if comprehension is the real issue here rather than language. She is so resistant to help though that I doubt she would accept visits from a volunteer. She telephoned this afternoon and got onto a very high horse telling me I'm no longer required to attend appointments with her as she's never needed someone to speak for her before and she certainly doesn't now. Of course she's forgotten all the appointments she's forgotten to attend, or remembered but then forgotten why she's there, and all the questions she answers with 'I can't remember'.
     
  8. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    I will do, thank you. I doubt the towns in her area are big enough to have day centers exclusively for Poles but it's certainly a question worth asking :)
     
  9. Slugsta

    Slugsta Registered User

    #9 Slugsta, Oct 15, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
    Hi Annie and welcome.

    What a conundrum for you! I hope that, deep down somewhere, your MIL does realise how lucky she is to have you take care of her, especially when she has not been particularly kind to you herself.

    It is typical for people with dementia to forget the problems and think they can manage perfectly well themselves, it is something that makes life more difficult for those who are trying to care for them. Sometimes a little white lie makes things easier, if/when this is the case, don't be afraid to use them. Maybe your MIL would like to help someone out by letting them do a bit of cleaning for her, or relate her experiences to someone who wants to compile a book, or tell newcomers to the area where to find other Polish speakers? These could all be ways of getting someone through the door...
     
  10. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    Hello Boldredrose. It's so difficult isn't it. I'm sympathising right back. And thank you for your kind words.

    Re. services accessed, she is currently refusing all professional help but the memory clinic have now referred her to a team that work with people who are resistant to accepting assistance. She has so far refused a daily nurse visit to check she has taken all her pills - she often doesn't and she is diabetic and has a heart problem so it's vital that she does - Wiltshire Farm Foods meals as a replacement for her daily cup-a-soups, getting a cleaner, wearing her hearing aids, wearing an alarm in case she falls again - so far she's been able to get up each time but it's a bit like she's playing a kind of self-imposed Russian roulette there, etc. etc., but thankfully she has just agreed to an OT assessment. As I said her sons struggle to find opportunities to visit, my brother-in-law being a five hour drive away, and my husband and myself a two hour drive away ... every visit I make includes a four hour round trip. And when I'm there - and she's kind of stuck with me, there's no one else in the family available - she doesn't want me to be. I'm a Pollyannaish soul generally but I'll freely admit I'm struggling here (I also have care of my baby grandson one day a week, a young adult son with health issues, and I have RA myself).
     
  11. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    Thank you Slugsta, I doubt I'd get the cleaning past her but the book is a brilliant idea, she loves to tell people all about Poland. :)
     
  12. Pete R

    Pete R Registered User

    Jul 26, 2014
    2,046
    Staffs
    Hi Annie C,
    My Father was Polish and had a similar experience to your MiL during the war. He refused to have Polish spoken in our home at all so visiting his side of the family was difficult (The liking of vodka at an early age helped though.:eek:)

    When things went pear shaped in the family the Polish side were difficult to deal with so I empathise with your situation.:( I have no contact with them at all.

    Which part of Wales are you in? I always remember the family talking of this place near Phlweli.........
    http://www.polishhousingsociety.co.uk/about-us/society-objectives/

    Might be worth giving them a call for advice if you do not think your liver will survive a trip to local Polish Club.:D

    The best carers, by a long way, in my Mom's CH are Polish.

    You already know it is not going to be easy and nothing you do will be right but I do wish you the very best of luck.

    :)
     
  13. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    Thank you PeteR, for the good wishes and the info re. the Polish Housing Society.
     
  14. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,740
    In some ways it doesn't matter too much if she is not making sense. I just thought the lull of a familiar language and a different face might make her less anxious and therefore easier to be with and also if a Polish speaker might just give you a break.

    Have you thought of trying to get a Polish radio station on the computer for her to listen to. her language may be disappearing fast but there is something to be said for being kind to the hearing which is the last sense to go.
     
  15. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    I'll try that, thank you Fizzie, she won't generally listen to the radio but a Polish radio station might, as you say, be soothing.
     
  16. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    69,124
    Kent
    My husband was Indian.

    When he first went into residential care, a couple of staff began to speak to him in Bengali, his mother tongue. This was meant kindly but he became confused and unable to differentiate the language needs of the individual people he spoke to.

    He started to speak in Bengali to me and to non Bengali speaking carers. Immediately we put a stop to the kind carers hoping to make him feel at home.

    I don`t know if this is likely to happen to your Mother in law Annie C but I thought I`d post just in case you think it relevant.
     
  17. Annie C

    Annie C Registered User

    Oct 14, 2015
    39
    Wales
    #17 Annie C, Oct 16, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
    Thank you so much for this comment, you've exactly described something I'm worried about. I feel we need to test if using Polish would help because my MIL has always had problems communicating with precision in English. But I am also aware that as a naturalised British citizen she now thinks of herself as British - I should add that she is very proud to be one - and I don't want to threaten her sense of self any more than the AZ already does.
     

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