Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My new favourite music video

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Barbarism Begins At Home

At last I have got a few minutes to myself to blog! We have all been soooooo busy lately - it started when we went on a normal holiday in Italy, which then ended in disaster. My gran on my mum's side has been "a bit odd" for quite a few years, and has now been diagnosed with senile dementia (specifically vascular dementia), so for the last few years she has been living at my aunt's house in Italy. We often stay at my aunt's house when we go on holiday, otherwise we just wouldn't be able to afford a holiday. It's an absolutely massive (three floors) house compared with ours, and they have plenty of money (it seems), so they let people stay there for free all the time. During our most recent holiday about a month ago, my aunt suddenly told us to take our gran to England with us. Not "Would you like to take her home with you?" - just "She's going to live with you and that's that!" I understand that she has been driving my aunt crazy and she can't take any more, but even so she should have realised that sending her to live with us was a very bad idea.
For a start, my gran doesn't speak a word of English, and there is no hope of her learning any because her memory is completely screwed up. Secondly, it's a completely different house - she's used to having the entire top floor of my aunt's house to herself (as I said before it's a massive house), now she's got the spare room in our house and she hasn't been able to get used to it. Even though she's been driving my aunt and her family crazy (as if they weren't already crazy enough!), at least she has the entire top floor (all one huge room, like a studio flat, plus en-suite bathroom) to roam in, so they can avoid her. That floor must be about the size of both floors of our house combined! She also thinks that everything belongs to her, and has a habit of stealing, hiding and breaking things, as well as making "bundles" obsessively. These problems were bad enough in my aunt's house, and made even worse in ours because it's smaller and she thinks it's all hers. Thirdly, it's a completely different country, so if we get sick of her stamping around the house and decide to take her out or put her in respite care, there can be problems (different language, different way of life, etc.).
Senile dementia is not just "going a bit doddery in your old age," it's a full-on mental illness! In a way it is worse than a lot of other mental illnesses, because at least some of them are curable, but dementia can't get better, it can only get worse. In terms of symptoms, there is also some overlap with schizophrenia (e.g. psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, apathy, paranoia, language problems, problems with social situations, etc.). There are scare stories in the media all the time about schizophrenia and cannabis, and i wonder if the reason why they're more worried about schizophrenia is due to that possible link with cannabis. The Daily Mail is one paper that often pisses me off for various reasons, and a few weeks ago it had a news story titled HOW CANNABIS MADE MY SON SCHIZOPHRENIC on the front page. The next day, it had a news story about a "score card" system that has been developed to find out your chance of developing dementia and what you can do to lower it - like the cannabis story, it was buried deep inside the paper, but unlike the cannabis story it got no front page splash (suggesting that it is less important, perhaps). Half the page reporting on the dementia story was given over to an opinion piece titled "Sorry, but I don't want to know," and I skim-read it and it basically seemed to say what the title said - the writer just wasn't interested in finding out what her chance of dementia was and what she could do about it. That really, really pissed me off - they're saying that we have to worry about schizophrenia, but not about dementia! They're practically the same disease! Are they pushing for cannabis to be upgraded to Class B again, or trying not to scare their elderly readers? Whatever their agenda is, it still disgusts me that they act like dementia isn't serious - it is! You just don't know how serious it can be 'til you meet someone with it.
Anyway... she demands 24-hour attention (she's attention-seeking by nature anyway, and the disease just makes it worse), plus you have to watch her all the time as she steals things, breaks things, eats everything, doesn't know where the loo is, punches people, walks into the road, switches on the gas on the stove... that sort of thing. She is able-bodied, and her body clock is screwed (she hardly ever sleeps, especially at night, and she mixes up day and night), so it really is a 24-hour job. Even though it's split between the family, it is still knackering for all of us.
I had been planning on spending this summer doing the following: studying for next year (Yes, I passed the first year! I got a 2:2 overall, i now know where i went wrong in my exams and coursework and what i could have done better, so hopefully I'll get a 2:1 next year. The first year is just "pass or fail" and determines if you come back next year or get kicked out - it doesn't count towards your overall grade. I was hoping on getting a little headstart on next year's work so hopefully i get a 2:1...) and doing some other work (like learning to drive, doing voluntary work, maybe even getting a job)... as well as socialising! But alas most of these plans have been scuppered (I've done a little studying, although not as much as i could have; I've had 2 driving lessons, which both went well, but again i could have had more; and my social life is much less than it previously was). This is a job and a half!
The first couple of weeks of looking after my gran, i was so tired all the time - falling asleep in the middle of the day, that sort of thing. Even now i'm a bit more used to it, i'm still not always as energetic as i would normally be, and my mum is still really ill from stress. My mum has never got on incredibly well with her mum, and dementia has made their relationship even worse: my gran is even more stubborn than ever. My mum has cancer, so she is supposed to avoid stress, and my aunt knows this, so it was pretty dumb of her to put my mum in a stressful situation like this.
My gran is on loads of medications but she is in such a severe state that they don't seem to make any difference. Also, in dementia the brain is always degenerating, which means its structure changes, so you have to keep changing the medication because a drug that works in the early stages may not work later on, or you may have to use combinations of various drugs to get a result. She isn't improving, and is showing signs of the later stages of the disease: lately she's been thinking that images on TV are real (as in, happening in the room right in front of her) and does stuff like sitting right next to it, touching the screen and talking to it. Also she doesn't bother to control her, um, "functions"... there is no physical reason for it like incontinence or anything, it's just that sometimes she doesn't realise that there are right and wrong places for doing this sort of thing, and other times she hallucinates and doesn't know which room she is in, so you can't leave her alone for a moment otherwise you'll come back into the living room to find her squatting on a plant pot thinking she's sitting on the loo...
It is obvious that she cannot live a normal life or live in a normal house. I just can't believe that my aunt didn't do something earlier. Why did she pass the buck to us instead of giving her to professionals who know how to deal with this sort of thing? I wonder if it is some sort of pride or family honour thing - she doesn't want to be seen putting her in a mental asylum or a care home, all that "what would the neighbours say?" stuff. She talks about how she should be in an asylum (she is too crazy for an old people's home), but at the same time she makes us promise not to put her in one. Family honour is a big thing in Italy - honour killings were made illegal only 25 years ago! But living with someone like my gran is enough to make others go insane too - when she lived with my aunt, my uncle looked after her most of the time, and she drove him to alcoholism! If my aunt really cared about her family, she would have put her mum into care instead of inflicting her on her family - sod the family's honour, save the family's health!

Sorry that this is such a depressing post, but it is something i just had to say. I'll just try to improve the mood a little now with a few rather cool things i've recently noticed on the web:

And what blog of mine would be complete without some music?
I bought the new single by Morrissey (who else?) the other day, and the live version of it on his myspace and the live B-sides on CD2 confirm my suspicion that much of his latest album sounds better live. The production on Ringleader of the Tormentors is beautiful and delicate, but sometimes it sounds a bit like everyone is being restrained instead of being given some "oomph", like his backing band aren't rocking out as much as they could do, so a lot of the songs end up sounding too similar to each other and not quite lively enough.
I also bought the new single by The Fratellis, a fun and lively new band from Scotland, and I reckon they could be big - they're not incredibly melodic but they are getting a lot of attention and their songs sound like they could get people dancing. I predict they'll be hyped up in the NME in no time. Watch this space...

And on a completely different (but still, thankfully, on a positive note), I am rediscovering one of my favourite TV shows: Dragons' Den. Business entepreneurs have to present their ideas to the "dragons" (a panel of successful businesspeople) and convince them to invest in their idea. There are often people presenting really strange inventions and asking the dragons to invest in them (and they refuse, of course), like a bloke last week who had invented something to stop half-used cucumbers going soggy in the fridge (what's wrong with just chopping off the soggy bits?), so it's quite entertaining and funny. I also think the male dragons are kind of attractive (No, it's not because of the big wads of cash on their desks!) - they're well-dressed, smart, sharp, witty and obviously know their stuff, and they're not bad looking either. I sometimes wonder whether or not i'm alone in thinking this, or whether or not I should actually care whether or not i have normal taste in men...

"And on that bombshell, it's time to end," as Jeremy Clarkson says at the end of every episode of Top Gear (another of my TV faves). I've got a big post planned, and I will post it... er... some time in the future.