Janice beside her father in the garden

Life during lockdown: 'Time with dad is a God-given gift'

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. 

Janice walking in the garden with her father

Janice's story

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.

Time together

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.

Sponsor the duo
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9 comments

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I am living with dementia alone, was very active , getting to places by bus or walking if local. My interests are social including speaking poetry and, although I have friends who do my shopping for me, and spend fair amount of time texting, phoning and emailing friends and , reading and sitting enjoying the sun in my back garden, my anxiety of being alone and not being able to have someone come i nto my house to fix things is increasing. I am not practical with gadgets, techie things and so sometimes a man about the house is neccessary. I know my capacities are diminishing, though there is no one to notice. I do have support from my Dementia Adviser which I find to be life line as I can moan to her, and have a laugh or three. And so, I think Janice what you are doing with your father is so especially wonderful, that you are able to grasp how your father is thinking and help him to improve his use of his faculties, and help him regain not only function of relearning prayers but his enjoyment of that process of usi ng his mind to relearn things that have been a part of his very essence as a practising Christian. God bless all three of you .

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My 91 year-old mum was diagnosed with mixed dementia last July (vascular and Alzheimer's), but sadly she wasn't able to stay living in her own home on her own, having been widowed earlier in the year. It is fine for those people who are able to do all the above things, but not for people like my mum. Consequently I find it sad to read about those people who are able to do such things. Furthermore mum is now needing to spend a vast amount of money being looked after. Thank you for writing about your dad and his experiences, but my experiences are very different.

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My dad has Alzheimer’s- I too am taking the time I have with him as precious. You sound like a lovely daughter. Sending a big hug x

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yes my husband use to recite both prayers also I place my head down to rest, we used to pray each day for many years, it gave me strength to help him till death seperated us

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Amazing family,xxx

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What a lovely thing to do!

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Yes, this is so lovely!

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I have the pleasure of knowing Arthur and his two lovely daughters, Lorraine and Janice. He is a gentleman and very much loved by his daughters. I have only known Arthur since his illness but even so I can see the goodness in his heart.

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A lovely story Janice, very well done. Good to hear that your Dad is still making apple pies! God bless both of you, and also Lorraine, in these difficult days.

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