Nicola and Colin

Life during lockdown: ‘This is the longest time that I haven’t seen my dad’

Nicola loves to spend time with her dad, Colin, who has vascular dementia. But despite keeping in touch with video calls during the coronavirus lockdown, Nicola is longing to hug her beloved dad again.

My dad, Colin Arthur Burbidge, was born 15 September 1939 just after the start of the Second World War. 

Dad grew up in Leicester and at the age of 19 he joined the National Service and was sent to Singapore. 

He was the Far East Light Heavyweight Champion! He would tell every person he met about it and put up his hands in the boxing stance. 

He was also the main man at his rugby club, the centre of attention at family parties, an incredible, sociable man, a loving father and grandfather. Sadly, he’s now living with dementia.

Nicola and Colin

Dad’s diagnosis

Dad’s 80 now and was diagnosed with vascular dementia in September 2017. 

He owned it in the beginning. I used to pick him and his friends up and take them to play dominoes at the rugby club on a Thursday night where dad would tell them all he had dementia.

‘He doesn’t talk much now. He can’t find the words.’ 

But when I see him, we still laugh, take selfies on Snapchat and I encourage him to sing. It’s amazing how the words come back to him when he sings! It makes him cry, and then we both cry! But it’s like getting my dad of old back again, just for a short time.

Dad’s in good hands

Dad has been with my stepmother, Ann, for over 20 years. She takes care of him in their bungalow, which is on the other side of Leicestershire from me. 

I gave up my job at a local hospice so I could help Ann take care of dad after his diagnosis and after he took a turn for the worst and had to go to A&E.

‘Dad’s really well looked after with Ann. But this lockdown has been the longest I’ve been without seeing him.’

We managed to get them WiFi in their bungalow just as lockdown started, meaning we can all send photos to Ann through WhatsApp to show dad. Me and my brother, Neil, can video call them through FaceTime, too... Although it’s usually the sky or the ceiling for most of the call!

Colin and Ann

Missing my dad

I miss him so much. I miss being with him on Thursdays when Ann goes out for a break to shop or have dinner with her daughters. 

‘Dad’s been getting upset in the night and he’s been waking-up up to seven times a night and crying.’ 

His doctor has now prescribed sleeping tablets, which seem to be helping him. He’s no problem in the daytime. But you can’t leave him alone for long or he fiddles and fidgets and ends up emptying his catheter into his slippers or socks!

I’m longing for the day when I can walk through their front door again and give them both the biggest hugs. 

Ann is the most amazing person to cope through this all on her own and I cannot wait to be there so she can take a well-earned break.

She usually goes to a dementia care group on a Monday and the carers have a WhatsApp group so at least getting the WiFi means she’s been able to message them, which has really helped her cope.

I know dad is well looked after, but it’s still hard not to worry. What if he doesn’t recognise me or his grandchildren because it’s been so long since we’ve seen him. 

There must be so many people out there in similar situations right now, so stay strong everyone. We’re getting through this together.

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Thank you for sharing your story which touched me. My dad has dementia and it’s awful not seeing him, I used to go see him a couple of times a week, I now go look through the window at him which isn’t the same. The last time I went my mum came out into her garden and I stayed on the track, dad came out of the house and set off like a shot to come see me, mum had to chase after him lol he got upset because he doesn’t really understand why I can’t go in. A positive has come out of this awful time though, my husband and youngest son have set up a just giving page and have cycled over a 100 miles in May for cycle for dementia raising £320. I hope I can see him face to face soon as like you I am so scared he won’t recognise me and his grandchildren. Take care x

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My lovely Dad 💝

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Well done Nicola . There must be many suffering like you are during lockdown. Dementia isn’t just suffered by the person but the whole family. It’s hard to explain that to some people and for them to understand. Just really appreciate when your Dad does show you recognition. We don’t know how much or if they understand it when we speak & tell them different things we feel they should hear about. Do keep talking to him as I’m sure they do hear & understand sometimes but just can’t communicate back to us, Music does seem to be a great way to help them. My Mum was never the one to put music on in the house but when she was suffering with dementia she would listen & join in. I found her one day singing away to the hymns that were being played. She was really happy .
Well done to Ann it takes a lot of strength & patience to be on your own & cope with a person suffering with dementia. So pleased for Colin he has someone there loving & being so great with him. I’m hoping you will be able to be there with Colin & help Ann again soon.
Just try to keep your sense of humour that will get you through many hard times. Plus your Dad will be watching your face & reactions and if you can keep Smiling through he will also do the same.
Take Care & God Bless Colin & all the family. Xxx

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