It’s my Dad’s birthday today – he’s reached 57. Now, I don’t usually talk about my Dad but as Linda Jones has helped me to understand a bit more, talking about it is good (check out Linda’s Someone Once Told Me).
My Dad has Pick’s disease, a form of dementia that is very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. He’s been in care homes for the past few years, some worse than others. Thankfully he’s now in a home specifically built for dementia sufferers and his care has improved dramatically as a result.
I want to tell you what dementia does though, and why it’s important that we overcome the stigma that some people still attach to it and make sure that it gets the attention it deserves.
In February last year (in what turned into a pretty awful two weeks) my Dad was taken to hospital after becoming very ill. While there he suffered a number of fits and early one Saturday morning my Mom was called by a doctor who said that should he have another fit there was a 50% chance that he would survive it, because his body was so weak. My Mom had to make the decision that should he lose consciousness he wouldn’t be resuscitated. The whole family spent the weekend at his bed side hoping, and praying, that he’d be okay. A week later he was finally well enough to return to the care home.
So this weekend we all went to see him in the care home to take birthday cards and some of his favourite Turkish Delights. At one point my sister mentioned that before that last year’s scare we all agreed that, as harsh as it sounds, it would be better for him not to live with dementia. Yet as soon as we thought we might loose him all we wanted was to see him get better.
While we were at the care home on Sunday and with all his family around him, he had another fit. Honestly, I was petrified. I tried hard not to let myself get upset for fear of the domino affect on my Mom and sister. The nurses tended to him and he was thankfully okay. They later told us that the last one he’d had was almost exactly a year ago.
It reminded me just how much of a strain it can be to see a member of your family suffer from dementia. To me, it feels like my Dad has already gone but that we haven’t had chance to say good bye yet. It’s painful to look at the frail shell that physically is your father but mentally a complete stranger.
Sometimes I like to think that seeing as my Dad is a young dementia sufferer there might just be a cure before his time is up, and I’ll get my Dad back. I know that won’t happen unless dementia gets the attention, and funding it needs though. Organisations like the Alzheimer’s Research Trust are looking for ways to combat dementia in it’s various forms but compared to cancer there is a massive shortfall in the amount of money spent on dementia research.
I know there’s a ‘crunch’ on but if you have a few quid in your pocket, will you do me and millions of others a favour? Give it to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and help us to fight this horrible disease.