Hollie’s story: ‘We’ve been hit hard as a family with this diagnosis’

Since Hollie's nan was diagnosed with dementia, it's been a time of adjustment for all the family. Read her story and a poem from her grandad, Phil.

For the past six months, my nan has been showing signs of dementia. It’s something that my family has had to find ways of dealing with, both physically and emotionally.

First, I want to acknowledge just how amazing everyone is who may be reading this. I underestimated just how fantastic all of those family members and carers are who have supported a person living with dementia - purely because I was naïve to how much time, care and patience the person needs.

Mum works tirelessly every day to ensure that Nan is cared for. She will not stop until she knows her mum and dad are happy, secure and safe. Mum has spent 28 years looking after me, my sister Rosie and brother Harry and she is a true inspiration for what she does for us—and now for Nan—every single day.

Hollie Martin and family

From left to right: Hollie, her nan Valerie, and her mum Tina, who is now Valerie's full-time carer.

It has been a rollercoaster of emotions for the whole family – and of course, for Nan herself.

Hollie has noticed changes in Valerie’s memory and behaviour since her diagnosis, but she still retains some independence.

My nan has been an independent, spritely and kind-hearted lady, so it pains me to see her forget words or lose her trail of thought. She needs help eating, showering and dressing now, but still there are flickers of her old self. She will choose to wear her jeans and match her white top with a white handbag, refusing to put on what Mum has got out of the wardrobe for her!

Nan gets confused with times and dates. She often asks questions about people on the TV and if they are still alive (like Bruce Forsythe). She will forget that she is already wearing a watch and before you know it, she will be wearing two on each arm!

As she learned more about her nan’s symptoms, Hollie went online and found support. But some questions are more difficult to answer.

It is so lovely to read the messages of support and advice on this website. I am learning first-hand just how intense and emotional this whole journey can be – for lots of reasons.

I can speak for my family when I say that sometimes we don't know whether to laugh or cry. It’s now clear that the answer is it’s OK to do both at different times!

Hollie, Valerie and Grandad Phil, who shares his poem with us

This photo from my wedding was taken four months before her diagnosis. I often look to it and wonder how she was feeling on that day. Had the dementia affected her at all at that moment? Did she really enjoy the day as much as I thought she did?

Hollie’s grandad has been hit particularly hard by his wife’s dementia diagnosis. He wrote a poem to share his feelings.

As much as we try to keep positive, we have been hit hard as a family with this diagnosis.

Our helpline advisers are here for you.

In particular, my grandad, who has been married to my nan for what seems like forever. When the person you love starts to say, "I don't want you here," or "It will be better when I am at my real house instead of living with you," it is heartbreaking.

Despite the pain and the anger, of course he has that unconditional love for the woman he married. He recently wrote a poem which, in a bittersweet way, represents just some of the feelings he has experienced these past few months. I promised him I would share it with you.

A Day with Dementia

She looks at me,
And looks away,
With those deep blue eyes,
She seems to say,
Why? Where? Who?
As she looks at me,
And looks away.

When? How? What? She says,
As she looks at me,
And looks away,
The day draws on,
There's not much talk,
But she looks at me,
And looks away.

But I think I understand what she is trying to say.
When she looks at me,
And looks away. 

By Phillip Wride

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Dear Phillip, very poignant. Having been there myself I can read so much more meaning from your very few words. That is the beauty of poetry, it touches the soul and is my chosen medium for expressing one's deepest emotions. Thank you so much for that. Best wishes, Alan

That poem is beautiful.

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