My grandfather has Alzheimer's disease. This poem is for him

16 year old Anders was inspired to write a poem during a visit to his grandfather's care home. Poetry helped Anders to deal with the pain he felt as he watched his grandfather struggling to communicate.

Anders' grandfather

Anders' grandfather, Charles Malcolm Hargreaves

When my grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, around six years ago after suffering several strokes, I wasn't sure what the implications would be, besides him losing his memory.

I was patient with him as he began to make the odd mistake, such as forgetting the name of a place or losing his keys. 

A close bond

Prior to my grandfather’s illness, I was fortunate to have a close relationship with him.

He was a very keen sportsman, and we both enjoyed playing golf.

Even in his seventies, despite the fact that following his stroke he lost all use of his right arm, and consequently had to use his weaker left arm to strike the ball, he continued his competitive streak.

He made no allowances for the fact I was just 10 years old! 

I often used to stay at my grandparents’ house, where I was always made to feel as though I was the most important thing in their lives.

Anders' grandfather and grandmother

Anders' grandparents, Charles and Carita

Dealing with the pain

However, around three years ago, my grandfather's condition drastically worsened, and I was completely unprepared for it.

Watching him attempt to string a sentence together, whilst sat in the care home, was a real struggle for me.

So, to deal with the pain that I felt, I wrote this poem, which contains the observations I made during my visits to the care home, and how they made me feel.

A poem by Anders Davis, aged sixteen

Let us remember, those who falter and forget. 
Those minds that search and halt. And set 
Out once again, on their fruitless quest, 
Like a student who knows, that he’s failing a test. 

Except they are blind, to the futility of their hunt. 
Until they return empty-handed, and come out with a grunt 
To us, starved of their sense, and craving their soul, 
As we patiently nod, whilst they go on their stroll. 

Blindly, through their barren brain deprived of life, 
Trapped in bodies incapable of feeling pain. And for the wives 
And husbands? Well, they sit and wait for a lucid moment, 
But when it comes, it goes just as fast. Stolen, 
And replaced by oppressive confusion, 
What looks like hope, Is just a cruel delusion. 

How to remember, before they were stripped of their mind. 
When there was life in their smile, and they were cruelly blind 
To their wretched fate, that would change their world beyond description, 
A tragic condition, with no prescription. 

Their mind is plagued, but their heart stays untouched, 
Stays beating, stays loving in a body so corrupt 
That when sobriety scrambles itself to the surface, 
The enslaver interrupts, and the prisoner forgets his purpose. 

Visits become scarce, and smiling becomes harder, 
Life is based on pairs, and I feel as though I’ve lost a partner 
And friend. Dementia, I cannot mend, but memories, I can remember, 
And so, I’ll build a fire, from the dying embers 
That I spend with you, so that when you depart, 
Your fire will be burning, deep within my heart. 

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This poem made me cry. I love the idea of building a fire of memories from the embers. My dad went into a care home a few weeks ago. Up until then he rang me up to ten times a day. Now the phone is silent. He lives too far away to visit and he wouldn't know who I was if I did. He is not alone. My sister visits him daily.

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This is an amazing and painfully true depiction of the process of watching a loved one suffer with dementia. My grandma has recently entered the final stage of dementia and has entered a hospice and from discovering this through my desire to educate myself on what’s to come next, I feel enlightened and inspired by these words. So thank you.

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Such a lovely and well thought out poem.
My father and mother in law are suffering from vascular dementia and it’s so tough to see them suffer on a daily basis.
Both are beautiful people and have give me and my wife so much love.

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Beautiful ❤️ Much love to you and your family Anders.
My Mum is struggling with communicating, I know how you feel. Thank you for your poem, keep writing x

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Beautiful and succinct and all of us with a parent or grandparent with this condition thank you

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Wow, what a touching poem, written with great awareness for someone so young. The love and bond they have is truly heartwarming. Thank you for sharing this.
I wish you all well in the dementia journey, xx

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I am Anders' grandmother Carita and I was so touched when I read this poem and couldn't stop crying. My husband is now in a care home and I visit every other day. He still knows me and is very happy when I see him. We have been married 57 years in May and it has been difficult to adjust to the fact that he is suffering from this dreadful illness. He was so close to Anders and he was my husband's little hero when he was young. I miss those days.
Carita Hargreaves

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