My aim for D4Dementia is that it represents a place where those who have dementia or care for someone with it can find solidarity, support, help and advice, whilst also being a source of insight for professionals working in dementia care and policy makers tasked with improving the lives of everyone living with dementia. As I have said previously, everything my dad went through is there to inform, educate and influence others – I believe he would have wanted to make a real and lasting difference, and I hope that will be his legacy.
Sadly the many people who have read about my dad’s dementia journey will never have the chance to meet him, so you will have to take it from me just what a down-to-earth, kind, loving, charismatic, funny and unassuming man he was. He worked hard but never played hard, he loved his family, animals, nature and the countryside, spent his spare time reading books, listening to music and singing songs (he had a beautifully rich, deep voice), enjoyed watching football, cricket and rugby, never travelled abroad, always loved his Sunday roast (especially when it was beef and Yorkshire puddings), believed in goodness, fairness and truth, and taught myself and my siblings so many values, most notably concerning dignity and respect, all underpinned by the simple idea that you treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.
My happy childhood with my parents never extended into my teens and twenties – dementia crept into our world when I was about 12 years old, and over the following 19 years changed everything about my relationship with my father. Now I visit his grave when only a few months previously I visited his care home. Just over a year ago we had an amazingly happy family day out at a local woodland, a place I returned to this week. As I walked through the carpet of leaves, I reflected on that visit with dad and how the abundant happiness on that day is even more powerful now that it was then.
I think you only truly realise just how precious those times are when you know you can never have them again. It is so easy to see dementia as a reason to just ‘get through the day’ – do what you have to do for your loved one, deal with all those problems and issues that occur on a daily basis, and forget in the process to just live in the moment. Take in the good things (they are there, some days you just have to look harder for them), work through the difficulties (not allowing them to obscure everything else) and allow yourself to feel and express your emotions, never bottle them up.
Above all, when you care for a loved one with dementia, remember that they are still a part of you. Even now, with my dad passed away, so much of what made him my dad is in me – not least his love of writing. He dabbled in it for many years during my childhood and I think he would wholeheartedly approve of my career choice as a result. His qualities are something I try to bring to my work and my life, but even more than that, they represent the foundations of good dementia care.
My father was actually never a man who sought or enjoyed the limelight. He was self-deprecating, never wanted a big fuss on his birthday or at Christmas, would always try and stand at the back in a photograph, and was happiest watching and supporting those he loved. Yet interestingly, though his writing, he had a steely and sadly unsuccessful desire to tell his story – the story of his youth, of the landscapes and animals that shaped it, and the love he had for a life that was gone but never forgotten.
When dementia intervened in our lives it focused dad’s mind once more on those long lost days before it took him from us, leaving his more recent story to be told. So here’s to another 40 posts on D4Dementia, many more readers along the way, and most of all to my dad – an amazing man who taught me so much and I hope will teach others even more.
Until next time...
You can follow me on Twitter: @bethyb1886
Well done on the success of this blog, Beth, and of your efforts to educate and support all those affected by this awful illness/condition.ReplyDelete
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Thank you Julie, very kindDelete
well done on your blog Beth, i lost my dad this year to dementia, ill never forget what an awful illness it is..ReplyDelete
Thank you for supporting my blogDelete
very very moving Beth..thank you. I also saw many of my own Dads values in there and moved to tears.....I was very lucky to have Dad for many more years than you and in making "old bones" my Dad became the man he wanted to be. "I'll live as long as I can and I'll die when I cant help it" was a favorite saying:o)ReplyDelete
I will miss him forever but he lives on in so many other ways. Thank you.
A friend I had worked with has just been diagnosed with Alzheimers, at just 66 and although we dont work together any more and they have moved away but I want to be able to offer appropriate support to her husband (who is much older than her). Should I wait to be asked or try to help now? I dont want to overwhelm either. Friend is currently being observed in hospital on experimental drug therapy......and due home soon.
Thank you again you have let your Dads voice guide you.
Hi Dee, thank you for your kind comments. My dad was a wonderful man and I hope he would be proud of the work I am doing now.ReplyDelete
In answer to your question, personally I would contact the couple you mention and just say that you are thinking of them and are here to help and support whenever they may need that. I think most people would appreciate knowing that they are not alone and have friends who can offer guidance and impart valuable experience and information. You can only offer and leave that thought with them.
All the best
Beth - I admire your commitment to stay with the dementia cause. my dad died in November and I have taken 6 months away from twitter and blogging - just wrote my first post today http://sandwichcarer.blogspot.co.uk.ReplyDelete
I am really struggling to work out how to continue to be committed to campaigning for a better life for those with dementia - my dad's death had made the dementia world very unreal for me - so admire what you have done and wonder if I will get to a point when I can write my dad's story.
Do keep blogging - you have taught me so much!
Many thanks for your kind comments Jeanne. I find a great deal of comfort in the work I do, but of course everyone feels differently and reacts differently to losing a loved one. My advice would be to give yourself as much time as you need, and never feel under pressure. For some people their memories and thoughts are always destined to remain personal and private to them - for others, the time comes when they want to share them.Delete
I wish you well. All the best, Beth