Dementia is 'the cruel monster that waited in the shadows' of my grandfather

15 year old Mia Dale based her GCSE creative writing piece on her grandfather, Derek Curley. He passed away from Alzheimer's disease recently, aged 88, having lived with dementia for five years. We are pleased to share Mia's piece here unedited.

Mia with her grandparents

Forget Me Not

By Mia, aged fifteen

The family had noticed his memory was not the same as it used to be. At first, it was little things which were brushed off as normal. But slowly his character shifted. Soon, it became a struggle for his wife to go out of the house with him, however, he did not like her going out by herself, as a gentleman he always wanted to take care of her.

Mia's grandparents in Hong Kong

Mia’s Grandad and Nana in Hong Kong

He called his youngest grandchild his “best pal” and was always delighted upon her arrival. His and his wife’s love story has always been his favourite to tell his grandchildren. Although his Alzheimers and Dementia were eating away at his memory, he would always be able to recite this story in intricate detail without missing a single aspect. He must have told his youngest grandchild this story over one hundred times.

Every time he told her. she would listen and take in every detail trying to imagine her grandparent's pasts. I am that girl, and I have never known two people to be so in love and perfect for each other. Even in 2017 they still slow danced to every song they shared, feeling as though they were still the young naval officer and nurse they were 65 years prior.

Mia's grandfather when he was a Naval Officer

Mia's Grandad in 1950 in the navy

On December 20th 2017, my grandfather was admitted into the care home he would spend his last two years in. I never visited him there, not because I didn't want to, but because I wanted my last memory with him to be when I saw him for the last time On the 16th of December 2017 where we sang Christmas songs together.

I said goodbye to my grandad as I usually would, assuming I would see him in a couple of days. Little did I know that was the last time I would lay my eyes on him.

My proper goodbye was said on the 24th of June 2019 - His funeral. 

Memories are what make up a person. If you stripped someone of their memories, then what are they but a shell of a person? Empty inside but with the same exterior. This is what dementia does to people. The cruel monster empty’s the inside of people and leave their exterior to slowly fade into oblivion leaving the people around them heartbroken and slowly forgotten. The monster waits in the shadows of the people and slowly creeps into their lives until finally it possesses your body and there is no going back.

Mia's grandparents on their Diamond Wedding anniversary

Mia’s Grandad and his three children together with Mia's Nana on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2014,  just before his symptoms started to show

At first it’s forgetting a few things, then it’s intense OCD, then it’s severe confusion and forgetting important details that have been explained multiple times until finally, you can’t even remember your own soulmate or your own flesh and blood in the shape of your beautiful children and their offspring whom you once loved so dearly and now look at them as if you are seeing them for the first time, like passing a stranger on the street and smiling, a smile nonetheless but an empty one - just to be kind.

That empty cold look when someone you once loved doesn’t recognise you will embed in your mind for the rest of your life. It will leave scars that will never fade and it will haunt you until your time comes to an end.

I never saw him again for the very fear of that cold and empty look.

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Thank you Mia, you show wisdom beyond your tender years ... maybe youth sees the World as what it should be .. simple and uncomplicated.
You have helped in a way beyond explanation to a similar experience currently being shared .. your Grandfather- and Grandmother - would be so proud ..Lest We Forget .. bless you

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Not sure.. 75 year old male having trouble with memory...I know something is not quite right... What I am finding is the lack of understanding in my family .....I am sure they suspect things are not as they should be ..The concern I think is more serious for them than for myself...

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Such a moving description, so true and beautifully written.

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What beautiful grandparents you had Mia (with your Nana still with you). I feel very honoured to have spent time with them and even more delighted I was able to watch you with them.
Your thoughts and words and insight are beyond your years. Expressing and sharing like this helps the world understand people and life just a little more. Xx

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Beautifully said. 😥. My mom passed last year, 20 watching her disappear into this dark place. My father took care of her till the end, their love for each other was beautiful. 70 yrsmarried and still in love. My mom passed last year, my father passed 8 months after. He didn’t take care of himself, he took care of Mom (his #1 priority). At the end he was was sick but too late to take care of. 😓.

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Thanks Mia for your beautiful words, you are so right about that ugly monster he robs a person of everything.
I take care of my husband at home who has been struggling for many years with this disease. He is now bed ridden but we try to make it day by day.

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Words l struggle with to convey my sadness . Every one of us have unique experiences with this disease. All are important to those affected. My dad sadly passed away in January 2019, and he cared for my mum who has Dementia right up to the point where he had to go into hospital. Now mum is in a residential home and is cared for extremely well. I know ,l and my family, are not alone in our situation, but this doesn't offer any peace of mind.
We have all have only one life, SO LIVE IT. But that doesn't mean we will stop caring


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