Under the auspices of the Waterford Garden Trail, four gardens across Waterford will open this weekend in aid of the Waterford Alzheimer’s Society.
For Margaret of Abbey Road Gardens, Ferrybank, it’s a cause which is close to her own heart as her husband Tom has vascular dementia – the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
Margaret, who is currently vice president of Waterford Garden Plant Society, explained what it was like to live with a dementia sufferer on a day to day basis.
“Alzheimer’s is the better known type of dementia but there are many different types. There are different patterns with each type. The pattern with vascular dementia is that sufferers don’t forget the people they know but their short term memory isn’t very good,” she said. “Tom’s long-term memory is quite good.
But with Alzheimer’s, both short and long term memories are affected. Tom remembers a lot of things from the past, but he doesn’t recognise people who have aged. He might meet someone on the street and they could say hello to him but he wouldn’t know them.”
Now aged 74, Tom has lived with dementia for the past ten years. Margaret explained how she initially began to suspect her husband had some form of dementia.
“A lot of people that have dementia or Alzheimer’s don’t realise they have it. I noticed Tom’s driving was becoming erratic,” she explained.
“It’s difficult living with it day to day, as dementia sufferers can’t be depended on. There might be little things like turning on the tap and leaving it on. Their common sense and cop-on is gone. It’s hard to go shopping as they can pick up things and not pay for them and walk out unwittingly with something. It’s dangerous for those who are living on their own, as they may turn on saucepans and forget them for example. It takes a long time to get a diagnosis. When you do get a diagnosis, for many it’s a relief as you can then go to the Alzheimer’s centre and look for help.”
Pinegrove Day Care Centre, Passage Road, Waterford provides support for local people who suffer from dementia and their families, as Margaret explained.
“Initially Tom went to Pinegrove for one day a week, then two, and now five days a week. The centre is very secure and there is a very calm atmosphere. He attends from 10am to 3.30pm. Before he went there, he was sitting down watching television all day and I was running around doing this, that and the other. He was definitely getting worse because he’d doze off and when he’d wake up he wouldn’t know reality from a dream. That all stopped when he went to Pinegrove because he is now being stimulated.”
Margaret praised the level of care which Tom receives at Pinegrove.
“I couldn’t cope without Pinegrove. It’s an absolute lifeline. It means I can keep him at home but I have a few hours during the day to go shopping, get my hair done, whatever. There are husbands out there as well who are in the same position as I am. Their wives may have dementia and they can avail of a few hours to do what they want during the day.”
Pinegrove also provides a home support service.
“Some people aren’t able to go to the centre or won’t go. In that case, carers can call out for a few hours whenever suits. It’s a very well-run service,” said Margaret.
She believes there is a huge lack of awareness surrounding dementia. “Even in acute hospitals, there isn’t enough training for dealing with dementia,” she said.
Although dementia is recognised as a serious condition, there is currently no automatic entitlement to a medical card for patients unless they have other conditions.
Margaret is encouraging everyone to come along and visit her garden in order to support Pinegrove and the services it provides.
Gardening has always been a passion for Margaret and she finds it very therapeutic.
“It’s marvellous to be able to do what I love doing. I’ve been opening the garden for around 15 or 20 years for different charities,” she explained.
As money raised locally stays locally, Margaret hopes that Pinegrove can undertake planned developments at the centre with money raised this weekend. Her large garden boasts trees, shrubs, water features and rare plants.
There will also be a book sale, bric-a-brac and a raffle on the day.
“Friends of mine have been very good to open their gardens and have been a great support to me,” said Margaret.
Other gardens which will open this Saturday June 28th from 2pm to 6pm are: the garden of Jim and Paula Heenan, ‘San Michele’, Newtown Park; Paddy and Mary Tobin, ‘Riverside’, Lower Gracedieu; Brendan and Breda Knox, 2 Ormonde Crescent, Lismore Park.
Admission to each garden is €5. For directions to all gardens call 087-2209026.
For more information on Pinegrove Day Care Centre, call Nurse Manager Anne-Marie Veale on 051-850491 or Home Support Co-ordinator David Power on 051-856831.