Stephanie shares how talking – about medical care, memories and wishes for the future – brought her closer to her dad Ted after his dementia diagnosis.
Dad was a decorator, and a wireless operator in the RAF. He loved golf, fishing, bird watching and listening to Matt Munro; he even gave singing a go himself, as part of the Northampton Male Voice Choir.
Dad knew something was wrong. He had a friend who had dementia, and it was always very upsetting for Dad to see him.
As I worked shifts, Dad would pop round to visit and confide in me that he felt something was up; he said he’d be doing mundane, everyday tasks and suddenly ‘go blank’.
We returned nine months later as things with Dad had progressed. During our follow-up visit I could tell the doctor was getting quite emotional seeing Dad; she had known our family for such a long time, and she could see Dad was struggling. She sent him for blood tests and a brain scan.
A man from the memory clinic visited the house. He broke the news to us - Dad had dementia. After this, Dad signed medical consent over to me, to help him make important decisions.
'Unlike Dad’s friend, whose dementia made him aggressive, Dad turned into a naughty toddler. He’d always been a prankster, and that mischievous streak stayed with him throughout his dementia journey.'
Dad loved talking about specific memories – one of his favourites was about golf. He once won the Coronation Cup at his local club. He could recall the round, shot for shot, and would love retelling it to anyone who would listen. He was filled with pride, but also riled; he believed he hadn’t been given his full prize, that some of the winnings hadn’t been handed over.
I contacted the club and explained the situation. A few days later, Dad received a letter on headed paper, explaining that they’d been through their records, showing they owed him £10, which they enclosed. Dad carried that £10 note everywhere, showing it off to everyone.
'As we all know, on the back of £10 notes is a picture of the Queen – and Dad became her biggest fan.'
He had a calendar of her photos in his office and would tip his cap to her every morning. He would ask her if she had a good night’s sleep and would make tea and toast – one slice for him, one for her.
Whenever there was a picture of her in the paper, breaking turf at an event, he would tell people that the Queen had been round and ‘done their garden’.
Life after dad
Dad got pneumonia and had to be admitted to hospital. We started making plans and coordinating things, to make sure he could stay at home.
We moved a hospital bed into the main bedroom and would lower it at night so he could share eye contact with Mum in her bed. We even organised for some of his choir friends to visit and sing with him. We wanted him to be comfortable and to know he was surrounded by people who loved him. He passed away in 2018.
As a result of my experience, I became a Dementia Friend and I’m now a Dementia Friends Champion, giving Information Sessions at work within the Northamptonshire Police. We include the Sessions as part of training for new recruits, so they understand how to approach and talk to people they meet who may have dementia.
'This period of Dad’s life was a special time for us both, we had such a close relationship. I accepted that Dad was different, but that he was still my Dad. I feel that helped bring us closer together; I climbed into his world with him.'
I never felt any pressure. I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to spend this time with Dad.
Would you like to share your story?
Writing and sharing a story about how you or a loved one has been affected by dementia can offer some relief for both writer and reader. Find out more about how to share your story.