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...
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