Janice is currently living with her 85-year-old dad, Reverend Arthur Parker, who has vascular dementia. During the coronavirus lockdown, they have been walking around the garden and reciting prayers. Now they are raising money for Alzheimer's Society to support other people affected by dementia.
Janice moved back in with her 85-year-old dad, Reverend Arthur Parker, when the coronavirus lockdown began.
Arthur, who was a Methodist Minister for 50 years, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in November 2019 and has been living independently ever since.
But Janice, from Craigavon in Northern Ireland, decided to move in with her dad in County Down to support him during this time of uncertainty.
Since moving in, Arthur has gone from watching television for a lot of the day, to walking 28.84 miles over 28 days. He has also been learning The Lord’s Prayer and The Lord is my Shepherd again.
Now, the duo want to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society by continuing their walk around the garden.
We had noticed a decline in dad’s mental capacity since the beginning of last year.
When he was diagnosed with vascular dementia, it was helpful as it explained certain behaviours and also meant we knew what we were dealing with.
Dad was also in hospital last August with a chest infection, which resulted in dangerously low blood count and him needing a transfusion of three pints of blood.
Both events inevitably lead to dad needing all the support my sister, Lorraine, and I could give him when he returned home, along with a care package.
Over the last year, we have seen an improvement in dad's health due to the extra care he has received from us and the fantastic team of community carers from Caremark, based in Bangor.
His friends, neighbours and Methodist Church have also played a role in his quality of life.
However as much as everyone was helping, his main daily activities remained watching TV, eating and napping.
As a social man of many talents and purpose his whole life, I believe this was a main concern to us.
Spending time outdoors
Recent world events obviously meant dad, at 85 years old, diabetic and with dementia was 'vulnerable'.
I offered to move in with him for lockdown to ensure he was kept safe and well cared for. My sister Lorraine brings all the shopping during the week.
We decided it would be beneficial for dad's health to move more, get fresh air and sunlight.
On 23 March, we completed two sets of two laps around his garden. Before the end of that week, it had increased to four laps, three times a day.
Fast forward to the present day. We are now doing six laps, five times a day.
Dad covered 28.84 miles in 28 days. And as of 12 May, he has done a total of 49.42 miles since starting on 23 March.
Praying while walking
On the second week, we decided to pray while walking.
Dementia had sadly taken those chapters so we began with The Lord's Prayer. Within two days, he was saying the whole prayer with minimal help.
The Lord is my Shepherd has also been revived, and both are now said several times a day while we walk.
Dad says it pleases him walking in the garden and he likes saying his prayers.
He feels happier since he started walking and that he's helping other people raising money.
My sister Lorraine and I both have noticed a positive increase in his confidence, general health and conversation.
During this lockdown he has also completed jigsaws, weeded his allotment, made apple pies with my help and dries and puts away all the dishes.
Having this time with dad is a God-given gift and evidence of giving someone with this condition time, support and encouragement can literally revitalise their lives.
Routine is important and allowing him to be a part of everything, making decisions is equally important, he really wants to be involved wherever he can.
Patience is necessary. as well. I know he understands everything that's said and done, but he can't always find the words to express himself. Given time, we get there.
And last but not least, compassion and understanding for how difficult and frightening dementia must be from the inside.
Words of wisdom
I always remember dad saying to me years ago, 'People who walk together, stay together', briefly meaning it allows them to talk in a comfortable way, without the intensity of face-to-face, and each having to compromise to walk at the same pace.
It's something we're doing now and without question has brought us even closer together.
Show your support
Please make a donation and sponsor Janice and her father Arthur, who are fundraising for Alzheimer's Society, on their JustGiving page.