Sarah Hargreaves family photo

Sarah's story: 'I slowly realised I was losing my best friend'

My name is Sarah and I’m 21 years old. In August 2017, my dad died from Alzheimer's disease. I would like to share my story of being a young carer and experiencing what it is to care for someone living with Alzheimer's disease.

Growing up, my dad was a very active. There were 60 years between us but this did not stop him from being involved in every aspect of my life.

He used to take my brother and I on numerous camping holidays, we’d ride our bikes together and we’d have many adventures.

He would always be planning new projects, DIY home improvements and could put his hand to absolutely anything.

Dad's diagnosis

Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011 when I was just 14 years old. At this point, my knowledge of Alzheimer's disease was very limited.

As time passed and his condition got worse, I slowly realised I was losing my best friend and what that really meant for my life.

Nothing can prepare you for that. Becoming a young carer places new expectations on you; the family dynamic is turned on its head and it leaves you trying to figure it all out whilst still trying to carry on doing what a regular teenager does.

Dementia is often described as the long goodbye and throughout those years I experienced grief and loss.

I found my interactions with Dad changed so drastically that I grieved for the relationship we used to have.

My advice to anyone experiencing this is to try and accept every new challenge and every new stage of their illness as a new chapter.

My love for my dad was unconditional and no matter what this disease did to him, he deserved all the dignity and respect I could give to him.

Caring for Dad

Dad was cared for at home until 2015 by my mum and I.

During this time we shared caring tasks and were very fortunate that we could work as a team to keep him at home for so long.

Throughout this time I learnt that Alzheimer's can affect every part of a person, from their ability to write, to communicate, they may become confused by time or not know who they are.

Being a young carer meant not only carrying out tasks to physically care for Dad, but it was also about being there for him emotionally, being able to be that friendly face even if he couldn’t remember my name.

Although Dad became very unwell, he never stopped being my dad, he never stopped being a husband, a granddad or an uncle.

There were many times where this was evident to me but this is an example I’d like to share.

In early 2015, Dad was been admitted to an organic condition hospital for an assessment of his Alzheimer's as it was not manageable in a care home.

During this time I used to get the bus from school and go visit him. This one particular time, I was so tired and told him that I’d had such a long day at school.

Even though he couldn’t look after himself or string a coherent sentence together, he made his bed and tucked me up so I could rest and sat there cuddling me.

Feelings of gratitude

It would be impossible to describe exactly what it was like to care for Dad. The struggles, the tears, the ups and downs.

To see this man, who was always so capable, be debilitated by such a condition honestly broke my heart.

But what I can say is that I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to give back and care for him like he used to do for me until he became ill.

I’m sharing my story not to say that my experience was all doom and gloom, because every cloud does have a silver lining.

Through Dad's illness, I was inspired to study mental health nursing and I’m now in my third year of the course.

What I would like you to take from my story is the importance of having patience with someone with dementia.

It came very apparent to me that as soon as Dad's condition became prominent, people started treating him differently.

Try and support that person to be able to do things that they enjoy. Little things like involving them in what you do without worrying if they’re not doing it the way you want them to.

Dance with them and show them joy! It's so important for that person's mental health that they feel valued.

I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been for my dad and to this day I admire his bravery and courage throughout his illness.

Sarah Hargreaves with her dad
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20 comments

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Very moving.Thank you.

Beautiful words from a loving daughter

Thank you for sharing
My dad also had Dementia & passed away 2 years ago.
I treasure every minute we spent 2gether.
There were tears & laughter though most of all Love & Respect.

Lovely words Sarah.
I miss the hour and hour I would spend on the phone with Dad, he was always there when ever you needed him. Sending you big hugs xxxxx

Lovely article Sarah. It's such a wicked disease. so glad you were able to give him such loving care. Good luck in your studies and all the very best for the future

Such a moving story I know how you feel I lost my mum to this horrible disease 4 and a half years ago I know the struggle you’re going through.

Heartbreaking! What a lovely Dad you had!

Your dad will be so proud of you doing nursing. I'm a service user and help train student nurses. #yourDadRocks #nursesRock you are inspirational. Xxx

Thank you so much for this Sarah, it moved me to tears. My sisters and I are going through this journey with our mother and your words have really helped.

I am just starting this journey,and it is nice to know the feelings I have about loosing your best friend are experienced by others,sometimes I sit and can’t believe this is happening,so thank you to all who share their stories

What an amazing inspirational story! My Dad too has Alzheimer's and it's so tough losing the one you love most in the world - thank you for your truth and honesty wishing all the best for the future xxx

How do I tell my story. I get so much from reading these, mainly positive in the worst situation . I would love to share my Lovely Dads story .

Hello Joanna, thanks for getting in touch.
We're so pleased you benefit from these heartwarming articles.
If you would like to write a blog post, we're always looking for real stories to share on our blog: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/share-your-dementia-story-our-blog
If you don't want to write a post yourself, you can also share your story with us, and get involved in our press and campaigning work: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/share-your-story

This has made me feel very sad...I realise I am becoming so bitter with my dad's illness that I cannot even bear to be in the same room as him. All he wants to do is pick fights with me and mentally I cannot cope. But reading this makes me realise there is so much I do miss about him

Hi Soodesh.
We're so sorry to hear you're going through such a tough time at the moment. Please know that our National Dementia Helpline advisers are here for you. They can provide information and advice to help you through the most difficult parts of your dad's condition. Please call 0300 222 11 22. Here's more information about the Helpline, including opening hours: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
Wishing you all the very best, Soodesh.

Thank you Sarah for sharing your story, you truly are a very strong & brave young lady. My mum has alzeheimers & its truly awful for my mum. All the best Sarah for the future xx

Sarah
This story story of yours is so moving.It really moved me to tears.I also didn't know you lost your dad all this while.
Plz do get in touch.This is Grace from Ghana.

This is so beautifully written.Sarah l am so proud of you.

We had to place my dad into care he has rapid dementia it broke my heart but I couldn’t do the medical care he needed
My mum has just been diagnosed with dementia too
So She lives in my home and we have put a lot in place and making the most of what we can I hate dementia

My mother had Alzhiemers she died over 20 years ago it was very sad at the end of life she did not know me or any of her Grand Children I miss her very much even after over 20 years when she passed away

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