Rakhee Jacobs: “We have shaped our world around her”
Caring is at the heart of family life for 36-year-old Rakhee Jacobs (nee Gokani), who lives in the family home with her husband, her parents, her younger sister and her granny, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004.
Granny Gokani has always been more than just a grandma to me. She lived in the family home since before I was born, and would look after me and my sisters while our parents worked.
Helping care for granny felt like a natural decision. I don’t want my parents to have to do it alone – the more people to support each other and share the work, the better. Caring for granny is something my whole family gets involved in, as we treasure her final years.
It takes a lot of diary coordination, but we make it work. Recently we’ve had more help from care workers, but it’s difficult to find people with the right experience and who stick around. It can be very unpredictable –we still have to be there to step in at a moment’s notice.
Getting used to her memory loss has been a work in progress. It’s like getting to know a completely new person. I remember how independent she used to be – now she needs us to do everything for her.
There are funny moments too – times when we’d find her in one of our bedrooms taking our stuff out to lay on the bed, or looking at her reflection in the mirror and having a long chat with her ‘mother’ or putting my dad’s shoes in the sink! She’s less mobile now, and I can’t tell you how much we miss it!
Caring has been one of the toughest things we’ve been through – as individuals and as a family. I can’t say it isn’t difficult. There are often tears, frustration and anger – sleep deprivation is usually the main cause!
Granny doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere anymore, meaning family celebrations are often a takeaway at home as we don’t want to leave her out. We can’t go on holiday as a family.
Caring for someone is the most patient you’ll ever have to be. I think it’s made me a better and more compassionate person. I’m also more vigilant when it comes to vulnerable or older people in society now – I’m more aware, and will always check up on people to make sure they’re ok.
Granny has mostly lost her speech now, but we still communicate with our eyes, hearts and touch. She gets so many kisses and cuddles, and I love doing little things like painting her nails or brushing her hair.
When granny smiles it’s the best thing ever. She’ll squeeze our hand, and we know we’ve made the right decision as a family. We wouldn’t have it any other way – living with granny during this has taught us all so much as a family. We have shaped our world around her.