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Alice's family story

4th November 2016

Alice Taylor with baby Harriet, husband Mark and her Uncle Philip at the Bishop's Palace in WellsAlice Taylor at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells with baby Harriet, husband Mark and Uncle Philip

By Philip Welch

My mother and my younger brother both have dementia – albeit different types. This is one reason why I support the campaign to make Wells a Dementia Friendly City.

I can’t cure Mum or David but I can try to increase awareness and understanding of this incurable disease.

Here my niece and David’s daughter Alice writing about her father.

‘One day, maybe ten years ago now, my Dad was in trouble. He was drinking too much, he was struggling to find work, he couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments on his flat.

He seemed to be sinking, and it wasn’t immediately clear why. Depression, alcohol dependence, stress; all were mooted as potential problems. Visits to the GP were gently suggested and booked. But still no answers and he began sinking lower.

Forgetfulness seemed to be an omnipresent feature of his life. So much so that eventually a short-term memory test was arranged, and duly failed. But this was again just put down to stress, so we all struggled on. Then one day a phone call came.  Dad had been taken to hospital after collapsing in the street - he’d had a heart attack. Still reeling from taking this in, I’m then told the staff have noticed Dad is struggling to remember where he lives, so they’ve asked for a specialist to come and take a look at him.

The outcome is clear: early-onset Alzheimer’s.

My Dad is just 59.

Six years later, he’s gradually reducing; his character, spirit, even his frame. He’s still got the essence of himself, he’s still mulishly stubborn when asked to do something he’s not keen on, still has flashes of his old cheekiness, still sparks into life when he sees certain things that interest him on some deeper level: cars, lorries like the ones he used to drive, dogs, his granddaughter.

But it’s hard to see someone who used to be so interested in other people, so lively, cheeky and garrulous, struggle to find simple words that used to come so readily. Formulating a sentence will often prove too much. He will give up half way through with a resigned smile. Conversation with Dad used to flow with such ease, he was a sounding board, an everyman, a constant in my life, and now I do most of the talking and all of the prompting, and often struggle to find words myself.

We spend much of our time together in a not uncomfortable silence, but one that still feels alien.

Professional support is by turns touchingly wonderful and flabbergastingly poor. From the carer who comes in and patiently takes Dad for coffees, shopping, or to have his hair cut, to the others who forget to prompt him to have a drink and take his medication. He’s been found wandering the streets, baffled and alone, another missing person for the police to scoop up.

But all is relative, and you find yourself adjusting to this new reality and clinging to all the small but fundamental importances. He still recognises me. His face still lights up when he sees his granddaughter. And the day that he doesn’t… well that’s the day I am dreading.’

For more information about the campaign to make Wells a Dementia Friendly City, offer help or just add your support, please email enquiries@pilgrimfp.co.uk or philipwelch21@btinternet.com


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