On Sunday I spent the day filming with an amazing family which has unquestioningly taken on the task of coping with old age and dementia at home. Ever since Doug (my friend Adem's 91 year old Grandfather) was discharged from hospital after a long stay with for a broken pelvis, he has been living in a bed in the front room of Adem's mother and step father's terrace house.
Doug before going to hospital:
He went into hospital physically well but was showing signs of relatively mild dementia. During his 3 months stay, he became and has remained completely confused, and is now unable to hold a conversation, although he talks a lot and can more or less express his needs. He is incontinent and needs to be changed regularly.
I wanted to film the family in action because I was so impressed by how they were coping with such an unusual set up in their living room. Adem's step Father Rick no longer works, and has become the full time carer. Adem's mother Carol gets back from work and immediately helps out. They are often kept awake right through the night. The rest of the family helps whenever they can to give them breaks because Doug can't be left alone in the house.
Although a care team will come three times a day to wash and change Doug's pads and dressings, the family will change him at least another six times in between these visits. It requires some serious nursing skill and is not for the squeamish. ALthough no one gave them any formal training before Doug's discharge they do it all with great humour and look after him with incredible patience. They are reconciled to it being their role, Doug having looked after everyone when they were young. I wonder how many other families around the country are doing the same thing with the same stoicism.
An edit of the material shot with Doug will form part of the triptic of films in Newcastle if things go as planned.