This is a series produced with the help of the Open University. One in three of us will suffer from dementia. As we get older, and we’re an aging population, the chance of getting dementia increases. But this series is not about how we get the disease, it’s about treatment as there is no cure. Like many others I can speak with some experience, my mum had dementia. I loved her, but it was a good day when she died. I couldn’t fault the treatment she received at Boquanran House in Clydebank. But I’m cynical. I know how institutions work. I watch programmes like this and the staff are lovely. The residents of Poppy Lodge seem happy. Everything’s hunky-dory.
It’s all about taking the residents back to a time which makes sense to them. The present is not past. Les, aged 91, for example, wanders about the corridors of Poppy Lodge. He is looking for his dad that died in 1971. He started as a boy working in a car factory that built Riley cars. His dad was a gaffer at the factory and got him a job on the production line. Les gets to go on a ride in an old Riley car with his son and carer. John, another resident, was a medic in the navy. He has a particularly virulent form of dementia Picks’ disease that can affect people as young as thirty. The viewer is shown Craig, his carer, looking it up on the internet. ‘There’s no cure,’ he says morbidly to the camera. He’s performing. Aping surprise and sadness at the same time. Having a film crew following you about means the likelihood of behaving in ways that are not acceptable are as remote as welcome mat for refugees. John worked with rescue helicopters. Craig takes him to places where he can make connections. John seems happy enough on the move. A choir is brought into the home and John sits and listens to songs he seems to recognise. Lovely.
Let’s turn the page. In Holland they create villages like Poppy Lodge. Residents can go shopping and ‘buy’ twenty cartons of ice cream, for example, from ‘the local shop’ which, later, is quietly put back in the freezer. The question isn’t how far we got to help those with dementia, the question is how much does it cost? I’d love to think my relations or myself would be cared for in a place like Poppy Lodge with a film crew following behind the back of every carer. But as I’m poor I envisage somewhere a lot cheaper that smells of piss. That’ll be the reality for most folk. I’m a cynic. I hope I’m proved wrong. But we live in a society in which the rich are leaving the mess they create behind. They’ll be alright. Can you say the same?