Pork pies and bacon. Dad became obsessed with them. 

Dad always used to be independent – shopping and cooking for himself. But after a back operation in 2019, he relied on us to shop, and cooked less. 

He would ring on Friday and my wife Cath and I would deliver the next day with his paper. Every week, pork pies and bacon. 

Then, it soon became clear that something was wrong – the fridge had both, uneaten from the last shop, but yet he always wanted more. 

In August 2021, we came back from a holiday and something felt different. Dad didn’t seem quite right, just a bit off compared to his usual self. 

Dad was 83 at this point. He was always very sharp, confident; up to date on current events, and politics.

He was always interested in what we were doing; how ‘his girls’ (our daughters) were, and what they were doing. 

Except, he just wasn’t as ‘on it’ as usual, told us things and then repeated them. Wasn’t quite as confident.

By Christmas, it was obvious that Dad had really changed.  

He was struggling to hold conversations with people he didn’t see regularly, and it was sometimes difficult for him to use the right words. 

He used to read lots, his lounge was like a small library, but he no longer read as much – new books continued to look new, unopened. 

He was paying less attention to his paper, too – so we read it with him. What he did use it for was checking the date before writing a cheque for his shopping. His writing also started to deteriorate, as did his understanding of what was required on the cheque – so much so that my bank started questioning them. 

What did not change was his signature, it remained as strong as it ever was.

We didn’t know he had dementia at this point – or didn’t want to acknowledge that’s what it was, even though we thought it could’ve been.

From March 2022, Dad started ringing us more – sometimes several times a day. He was confused about the time of day, asking whether it was morning or afternoon. 

On another occasion he rang as he’d broken a dish while trying to cook and was very distressed.

Everything in our lives became focused on Dad. If the phone went, the first thought was: ‘It must be Dad calling again – what now?’ It was like being on call 24/7. It was hard, harder still because he lived 40 minutes away.

Dementia is horrendous, and we want to do any little thing we can do to help people understand

In early May, I spoke to Dad’s GP about our concerns and he agreed to visit him. He did tests, and explained that dad scored highly, suggesting he had advanced dementia – though Dad thought he’d done well.

The dementia diagnosis was upsetting, but confirmed what we hadn’t wanted to say aloud. His GP suggested we carry on as we were. 

Dad was in his own home so it was somewhere he knew and he had us to help. With the assistance we gave him, his GP said he’d be able to cope.

Truthfully, we never spoke to Dad about having dementia as it deteriorated so quickly – but he was aware that things weren’t right as he’d tap his head and say: ‘It’s not working’.

From mid-May, we’d visit every day to make sure he was OK, do chores and cook for him. One day, he clearly hadn’t moved from the previous day – he was still in the chair we left him in, with the same cold cup of coffee.

It was sad as I knew how he used to be, and to see him like this was heartbreaking.  

On Sunday 5 June, we found him collapsed at home and he was admitted to hospital. It took a lot of persuading for the staff to accept he had dementia. One nurse described him as ‘happily confused’ instead, as he would chatter away in his own world. 

He talked a lot about school friends and his boyhood, which was good to hear. But over time he did get more confused, seeing things that weren’t there.

After two months in hospital, he was discharged to a care home. The staff were brilliant, but Dad was gradually getting worse. He wasn’t himself, losing his temper and shouting. He didn’t like going into the day room due to the noise and ended up staying in his room – but we visited daily.

On Tuesday 11 October, a nurse stopped me on the way in to say he was really bad, and they wanted to start end-of-life care.  

I heard Dad before I reached his room. He was in pain, shouting about God and for his mum, over and over for hours until his medication took effect. I never want to see anyone like that again.  

More from Platform

Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk’s first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.

Find some of our best reads of the week below:

An anonymous writer describes the moment he found out his boyfriend was HIV positive and hadn’t told him.

Adee Phelan made millions in his job as hairdresser and salon owner, all without being able to read. Now in his 50s, Adee is starting to learn.

Mr and Mrs Smith lost their 17-year-old son Harry to suicide a decade ago. Harry took his own life on results day after not getting the AS Level grades he was expecting.

And Maggie Redding, who along with her wife Sylvia, lives in a LGBTQ+ friendly retirement complex, explains how homophobia doesn’t stop once you reach your 80s.

The next day, Dad was calmer – he was aware we were there and held our hands. He was the same on Thursday, and then he passed away quietly on Friday morning.

It wasn’t unexpected, but I felt numb. 

I don’t think I’ve grieved properly yet, but I did cry openly at my first rugby match at Bath after his death. Dad and I went together for years, and I realised we’d never be able to again.

Cath and I knew we wanted to help out Alzheimer’s Society in any way we could, so we’ve signed up to volunteer and support on the day of the Bristol Memory Walk in September. 

We learned more from the charity’s website about dementia – like how to deal with a person with dementia, how to talk to them and why they may be how they are – than we did from any professional. 

If we needed this help, then it must continue to be available for others in the same position.

Dementia is horrendous, and we want to do any little thing we can do to help people understand. 

My advice to any carer is be patient, it’s not their fault they have changed – they just need to know they are still loved.

This Autumn, join thousands of others and sign up for free to an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk to help stop dementia from devastating lives. Sign up now at memorywalk.org.uk.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Share your views in the comments below.

Source: Read Full Article