We didn’t really know how to cope with her changed behaviour and her forgetfulness. We learnt so much from that experience and looking back wished we’d done things differently. But now my other nan, Joyce, has dementia, a mix of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, we are more prepared and aware. Rather than correct her when she gets things wrong, we enter her world and try to keep her as happy and active as possible.

The experience with my grandparents has influenced my career choice. After training as a drama student, I used my creative skills as an activities coordinator at my nan’s care home. I really enjoyed it and later went on to train to run workshops for people with mental health problems and the elderly.

I now run creative workshops in care homes for people with dementia. I’m hoping to use my workshops to work directly with families who are looking after someone with dementia too. The workshops I run involve all sorts of creative activities, making things that individuals will be able to use, like coasters and plant pots, the list is endless. I also make puppets which I use in some of my activities. 

My granddad looks after Nan at home with the help of carers. He’s in his 80s now and it’s a very stressful situation for him. I visit them every day. I bake cakes with Nan and she likes to help me make my puppets. I also take her out as much as possible. Granddad usually prefers to stay at home and have a little time to himself.

My nan and granddad met when they were both working at the Batchelor’s factory in Sheffield, which produced canned soup and peas. They married when they were 21. Granddad went on to work for British Tissues and then started his own transport company, Gloystarne and ran the Aston Hall Hotel.

Nan was very proud of her appearance but nowadays she’s lost much of her dress sense. But we always make sure she looks nice. Granddad can get a bit frustrated though when she goes out without thinking about her appearance and minding her manners, she would have never done that before.

These days Nan’s short term memory is very poor but she can remember plenty about her younger years. She has trouble with her eyesight, mainly I think because she can’t manage to wear her contact lenses anymore and won’t wear glasses. She hallucinates sometimes, seeing things that aren’t there, hearing things that aren’t there and even smelling things that aren’t there, like the smell of new shoes. 

I find Nan is most receptive when I sing with her before we do any activities, it seems to stimulate her. We have lovely times together focusing on what she can do rather than what she can’t.”

Grace is a supporter of Alzheimer’s Research UK.