I’m talking about my dad living with dementia for the first time. It’s been a difficult journey, and my wonderful papa has changed a lot since his diagnosis. But with 800,000 people currently living with the condition in the UK, there are so many families facing the same worries and challenges that my family has experienced. I feel really strongly about letting people know they’re not alone and that charities like Alzheimer’s Society are here to help.

Dad was diagnosed with frontal-temporal dementia six years ago at the age of 66. Mum first realised something was seriously wrong when they went on holiday to the Maldives. Dad was behaving completely out of character and when she came back it was upsetting to see her clearly very distressed by his behaviour. At first, their GP thought it was depression so he was prescribed anti-depressants. His behaviour quickly became so erratic that the GP sent him for a brain scan. That was when we found out that Dad had dementia.

It was a really difficult time. Dad didn’t really understand what was going on and as a family we didn’t know anything about the condition. It was really hard to come to terms with the news, let alone start thinking about making plans for Dad’s care. Mum did her best to care for him at home initially, but it became too much and social services told us we had to make the difficult decision to find a care home which was in Dad’s best interest.

 

Caring for Dad

 

The family home is in quite a rural part of Wales, so we worried about finding somewhere nearby that would enable us all to visit frequently, whilst being right for Dad. The thought of him being miles away and Mum having to drive for hours to see him every day was a real worry. Mum and Dad hadn’t really spent a day apart in over 44 years so it was strange to think of them living in different places.

Dad didn’t really understand what was going on and as a family we didn’t know anything about the condition

To begin with, the first care home was nice but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t right for Dad. Dad’s dementia affects the frontal lobe in his brain, which controls behaviour and emotions. He went through a stage of being quite aggressive and frustrated and it quickly became clear that this particular care home couldn’t cope with Dad’s behaviour.

We weren’t sure what to do next, or where to turn. We just wanted Dad to be settled somewhere. We re-explored some of the homes Mum had seen to begin with. One of them had just built a new unit, especially for people with dementia. I went along with Mum to visit it and at first I found it to be quite sterile. In fact I cried a lot that day; we weren’t sure how to make things right for Dad. Everything changed when we met the staff. I quickly learnt that it wasn’t about what a place looked like, it’s the people that make a good care home. Dad being in the Bodlondeb unit at Pendine Park in Wrexham has been the best decision we ever made.

Dad’s condition has progressed and he sleeps a lot now. I visit as much as I can but mum still goes about four or five times a week.  What’s happened to my papa is devastating and not a day goes by where I don’t miss how things were before he got dementia. However, it is a huge relief to know that he’s in a safe, comfortable place with friendly staff who truly care about his welfare.