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Reflections on lost memories

“As your memory diminishes, you have to live in the moment. You can’t mourn yesterday, or fear tomorrow. Living in the moment is precious but of course, it is limited, “ says 74-year-old Angus Hallman, who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. “If your memory is intact, you are living with all the experiences you have had – both good and bad, but mine are now disappearing.”

Angus lost his wife to a brain tumour ten years ago and living in a large seven-bedroom house, he was finding it difficult to look after himself. “My wife had spoilt me really. For many years I was a workaholic, writing my books while she looked after me,” he explains. Angus was an academic and psychiatrist, specialising in the connection between mood and memory, so when he began noticing his memory fading, it was particularly poignant.

“When you’re losing your memory, it’s like losing half your life. You can enjoy people in the here and now but you know that in three days time, you’re not going to remember them.”

“It is difficult to accept your fading memories. Old age is not for sissies. It’s hard to lose people every week. It’s like drawing up the draw bridge of oneself and it can be quite lonely,” he says, citing a book on the subject he has been reading, called “Being Mortal.” 

When two and a half years ago, Angus began falling and had been found unconscious at home four or five times, he knew things had to change. “I was getting up in the morning and waking up in hospital, “ he says. “I knew I was failing and my daughter began looking around for care options.”

With a son living abroad, and a daughter travelling throughout the year, Angus knew he didn’t want to live in a care home and the best option seemed to be live-in care. “I knew I didn’t want to live in a home because when I was visiting many of my friends there, I knew it wasn’t for me,” he says.

After much research into care providers, both he and his daughter decided on Trinity Homecare and after meeting and talking with the team, he now feels satisfied they know him well enough to match him with the right person – and that he says is very important.

“When you have someone living with you, looking after you, it is a very delicate situation,” he says. “They’re dealing with someone’s life – and that is no small matter.”

Angus admits that it can be challenging having people living in your home “but I love being cooked and cared for and I have had to learn to ask for what I need.”

In that way, he explains, dementia has changed him: “My son will come to see me and I won’t remember and that must be hard for him. But you know, for me, I become thrilled with the small things in life. I have a wonderful card from one of my grandsons and I love to look at that – it’s a reminder of what’s important in life.”

“It’s not sad. I have become more philosophical and accepting of life – and that’s a gift.”