When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure
If you’d asked me five years ago what dementia was, I’d have replied, 'Some sort of mental illness.' Five years ago I was a child; my biggest worries were if people liked me or if my clothes went with the shoes I was wearing. Sometimes I still wish I was a child. I’ve never had to alter more quickly as a person than I have in the last five years. I grew up fast, faster than I could mentally establish. Dealing with adult situations such as money, insurance, care…it has now just become second nature, I’m learning more as time passes and each day there is something new to learn, or something that has to be sorted. I have gone from happy and care free to mentally and emotionally run down.
My father has dementia. He was diagnosed in his early 60’s with frontotemporal dementia which means overtime his frontal lobe deteriorates. His behaviour and emotions will change, the man I looked up to is slowly being altered. There’s no manual that tells you what to do, or how to feel. The worst part is that no one can turn around and say everything will be OK in the end. But seeing a massive smile across his face when I visit him is what keeps me going, all that hard work pays off. And I just keep going.
Up to this date I have never met anyone my age (20) nor my sister’s age (15) going through what we’re going through. We have no one to relate to. Knowing someone else our age who was going through this would show us we are not alone. I have an amazing support system. My family and friends are truly incredible and always there for me, but they can’t comprehend what it’s like to live with this on my mind all the time. My sister and I have each other and sometimes I don’t know what I would do without her support.
This inspired me to create a support network and attempt to bring together under 21’s who have relatives with dementia. Acting as some sort of haven when everything just gets too much, there is an escape with people there who understand how you’re feeling. I wanted my sister to have someone she could relate to, someone who could understand her.
It will be a long journey spreading the message that there is a place for young people who have family members with dementia. But I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. What my experience of dementia has taught me is to appreciate people you hold close to you. Make every second count. “Life’s too short,” so they say, so I’m going to make sure to achieve everything I put my mind to, help everyone that is physically possible and continue to raise awareness for dementia. Dad. This one’s for you.
- Heather Grant has set up the Facebook group – Dementia Support for under 21s - to offer support and friendship to others aged under 21 who have a family member with dementia. Heather's dad sadly passed away in September 2015. She has bravely updated her story here.