David, who is 60, is a lovely hospitable, gregarious gentleman. He has worked hard all of his life, has grown children, a beautiful house and money. He was and still is a bit of a flirt, but charming and full of life.
He has dementia.
He doesn’t remember his children’s names but can tell you that he once played Rugby at a national level. He has coffee at the same café every morning, smiles at the owners, talks incessantly and laughs with the customers, but he can’t remember what he drinks.
As I waited outside his house one morning to meet him, he walked towards me with his male carer, football in hand, a twinkle in his eyes, flushes cheeks and threw his head back laughing as he warmly greeted me and asked if I would like to go to Paris. He proudly showed me around his home, although he didn’t know how to open the back door or where he kept the coffee.
David’s dementia is slowly getting worse; he can’t negotiate crowds, ride on escalators, cross the street, prepare food or dress himself anymore.
He has a carer who attends to this.
He can throw a rugby ball, drink coffee and enjoy the sunshine and company of others. He enjoys riding his bike, wine, good food and talking about his plans for a European tour. But he believes his underwear goes on top of his head.
Concerned for David’s decreasing health I rang his GP and shared by concern and asked if I should make an appointment to have him reviewed. His GP did not want to hear my concerns but stated that he should be in a nursing home. I was shocked at this response; I informed him that David was safe with his carers and otherwise was in good health and enjoying life. Once again his GP was uninterested and stated that he was a risk – and should be put somewhere!
Not really prepared for this response I thanked him for his time and quickly ended the conversation. I wasn’t sure what “put somewhere” meant, and how David would continue to enjoy his lifestyle in a nursing home at 60.
I started thinking about my own GP and how he would react to this situation. I didn’t know! When it came to making lifestyle and health decisions for myself or my family, would he support my choices? I wasn’t sure!
I have known my GP for 10 years – and I was worried what his reaction would be. I started asking my friends and colleagues how well they knew their GP’s. The person that they trusted with their life. Surprisingly very few people could answer my question.