Natasha and her grandfather, John, always had a close relationship. But his Alzheimer's disease diagnosis wasn't going to stop her beloved Grandad from walking her down the aisle on Natasha's big day.
As soon as I was I born, I became my Grandad's Princess.
He would spend hours on his hands and knees playing shops with me. We'd pull out the contents of my Nan’s cupboards, or her button jar and count them one by one.
As I got a little older, I wanted to become his hairdresser. I would pull his head around putting his very little hair into bunches and brushing endlessly what he had.
I was very fortunate to spend weekends at Hembsy in their caravan with them. I would insist on spending hours at the arcades where he would slip me another pound to change up for the 2p machines. He'd say 'Don’t tell Nan' and laugh. We would walk up and down the beachfront. Not once did he ever moan, I think he enjoyed it, I hope he enjoyed it.
When I became a singer and dancer, my Nan and Grandad were my cheerleaders. They would always attend, to watch when they could, to support me.
Noticing changes in Grandad's behaviour
Suddenly we noticed Grandad starting to change a little.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when I was in my early twenties, which meant I suddenly became the one who would push him around in a wheelchair.
Our roles reversed.
'Too fast! Slow down!' Nan would shout. Grandad would laugh and say 'No, keep going!'
I would assist him him with meals when we went to restaurants to give my Nan a little break.
Moving home to accomodate Grandad
As time passed, we moved my Nan and Grandad out of their family home where they had brought up their children.
They moved into a bungalow so it was much safer for my Grandad.
We were still able to take Grandad out for a few years. He loved a trip to a garden centre, with a stop off at the café for a cake and cup of tea.
His Alzheimer’s was progressing he was becoming agitated, more forgetful, becoming very frustrated and starting to get frail.
Big part of my wedding day
I always said when I get married, Grandad would walk me down the aisle.
A week before my wedding date, he was taken to hospital after a fall, but he made a great recovery.
I kept to my word and he walked me down the aisle on 19 December 2014. By then, he no longer had capacity to give me away. My brother took over for that part. I wasn’t going to take my Grandad's moment away from him that I had always said would happen.
That day was the best day for our family to see. He danced, he cried, he sang, he smiled.
Grandad was extremely tired at the end of the day, but it was the last day he had out before he had to move into a nursing home.
Living in residential care
Shortly after my wedding, Grandad spent the next few years in a nursing home. His Alzheimer’s continued to progress and he became bed-bound and no longer able to speak to us.
We all visited regularly my Nan, every day without fail, but he was getting a lot of chest infections.
After a few hospital visits, the last hospital trip came in July 2019 where he sadly lost his life to Alzheimer’s with all his family around him.
My birthday is August and I found a feather under my chair at work on my birthday that year. I have kept it because I swear Grandad was saying 'Happy Birthday'.
See the person, not the dementia
I have since been doing charity fundraisers for Alzheimer’s. I have raised over £600, which is amazing.
I'm also taking part in Memory Walk this year, to raise money for Alzheimer's Society while honouring my Grandad.
Earlier this year, I also set up a campaign called I AM ME, which are words I have made out of the word Alzheimer’s to help remind people that just because they have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, please don’t treat them differently.
A person with Alzheimer's will still enjoy talking about all the things they used to talk about. They will still enjoy the same hobbies (safely), listening to the same music.
Before he passed away, I still chatted and had conversations with my Grandad. We always used to play his favourite music.
A smile was guaranteed if we walked our dog up to visit him. he was always the same Grandad and enjoyed the same things. Those things just needed adapting as Alzheimer’s took over.
There might be changes, but please just have patience.
Support us on your wedding day
If you are interested in fundraising for Alzheimer's Society, like Natasha, you can support us on your special day with wedding favours, donations and more.