Olivia Fairhurst as a child sitting in the lap of her grandfather, Robert

Losing a loved one with dementia during the coronavirus pandemic

Following his Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, Robert, Olivia's grandad, moved into a care home, where he lived until his passing. Olivia talks about the frustrations of limited care home visits during coronavirus, and what it's like to lose a loved one with dementia in a pandemic.

My grandad, Robert, was a free spirit. He took pride in everything he did, especially becoming a soldier at a young age, as well as his football career.

Grandad played for many teams over the years and kept all his football game cards that you used to get in advance back in those days. He was particularly proud of when he played for Sunderland professionally when he was younger. 

He would often show me his football cards and share memories - you could tell this always made him happy.

He always loved football and would enjoy sharing his stories, especially with us grandchildren.

When I was little, I always remember him being around, right up until the age of 21. He was truly a remarkable grandad.

Olivia Fairhurst's grandparents

My nana and grandad together. She was his world.

Seeing the signs of Alzheimer's in grandad

Grandad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease back in 2018/2019.

I first noticed changes in his behaviour when he became slightly forgetful at home and could see my nana becoming more stressed whilst having to take care of him.

He never had a 'bad' dementia. He often forgot names and would jumble up words, but he never got frustrated. He would always just laugh, which I admired of him.

He often had falls, which set him back massively. It was always hard seeing the changes in him taking their toll. These led to him having to reside in full-time care.

Kept apart during the coronavirus pandemic

Due to coronavirus, grandad's year in the care home was cut short of visits and time together with us as a family. We wanted to remind my grandad how loved he was and to keep his memories alive. Visiting him just wasn’t the same.

Phone calls and window visits didn’t seem enough.

I always went to visit him at his window and the carers often brought him outside into the garden so I could see him over the fence.

He recognised my car and me but I always knew he didn’t understand why I couldn’t come in, which he would get frustrated at whenever he asked me to.

I was always grateful that I got to see him in some way. I rang up every day to speak to him but he never liked using the phone due to his hearing.

The care home did everything they could to help me and my nana see him any way we could. Video calls were also an option, but I think what we needed was a cuddle and to be in there with him, as well as have the ability to take him out, as we had so many plans to visit some of his special places.

Olivia Fairhurst's grandfather, Robert

Grandad loved to share stories with us.

Losing a loved one with dementia during the pandemic

Grandad passed away during the pandemic due to his ongoing illnesses, which has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.

I will remember my dear, precious grandad happy, full of jokes and always laughing even during his time in full-time care.

My personal mission is to continue to let his memory live on, as well as remember everything he succeeded in.

I will continue to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society in my grandad's name, as I have previously.

For my birthday, before his passing, I raised almost ÂŁ100 for Alzheimer’s Society via Facebook within a week! I was so happy with that.

I also managed to raise ÂŁ950 for the care home he resided in as part of my grandad’s funeral collection. This is so that residents on my grandad’s unit could do something fun and in memory of his life and celebrate whilst remembering his name.

Yes, it may be too late to cure my grandad of his disease, but hopefully, in the future, someone may get to hug their grandad a little longer with funds raised supporting Alzheimer's Society.

Ways to give in memory

Celebrate the life of a loved one in a special way by making a donation in their memory. There are different ways you can do so while helping improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

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It is uplifting to hear from those who have walked the same path before you.Iam taking care of my husband who had dementia and each day is a learning day as it to interpret what he says and needs, Thanks I Olivia

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