Veronica Tobias was born in the Caribbean but had lived in the UK for decades. Despite having a diagnosis of vascular dementia and a hurricane destroying the country of her birth, the government still wanted to deport her. Her daughter Jennifer tells an astonishing story.
My mother Veronica is 81. She grew up in the Commonwealth of Dominica, and moved to Paddington, London when she was 21.
In 1982, after a lifetime in the UK, my parents returned to Dominica to take care of my father’s parents.
In 2016 – four years after my father passed away – I got a call at work, notifying me of concerns relating to my mother’s memory. By January of the next year, she’d been diagnosed with vascular dementia.
It began 18 months of uncertainty, horror and fear.
The right to remain
I flew to Dominica and returned to the UK with my mother so she could spend time with me. During her stay her passport expired. I applied for her replacement British passport, but was notified by the Home Office that she was not entitled to a British passport and her stay in the UK would be of a limited period.
My mother unfortunately joined the thousands of other individuals who fell victim to the Windrush Scandal.
While I was busy addressing my mother's care, it was confirmed that she didn't have a right to a British passport. This automatically affected her right to remain in the UK.
Dominica was then traumatised by the worst hurricane to hit the island. This resulted in considerable damage to my mother’s home. So the option of her returning to Dominica at some point had been taken from her as well.
She had nowhere to go – but she, a 79-year-old woman with dementia - was being told that she couldn’t stay with me, either.
Hitting the headlines
Finally, in 2018, the Windrush scandal hit the headlines, and the Home Office backed down. My mother received her British passport along with her right to remain in the UK.
When I was going through all of this, and looking after Mum at the same time, I remained afraid to share the extreme pressure l was going through.
I rang the Alzheimer’s Society in Hackney, and I cried and talked and cried and talked. And they never judged me. They never told me what I should do. They listened.
And that is what I really needed. They let me talk.
People with dementia need to be treated like human beings. It hurts me when people do things like talking to me instead of to my Mum.
Joy and wisdom
My mother is a unique individual and a remarkable human being.
She does more exercise than I do. She is at classes three times a week and goes to Singing for the Brain! She can even do Zumba.
My mother’s respect and deep affection for her environment, continues to energize her. She can identify all the birds around Dominica. Even now, she finds it hard to pass a flower without smelling it.
My mother provides me with a deep seated wisdom, that l respect and am truly appreciative of. She has given me a wealth of joy, and she still gives me joy.