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Dana's Story

My Dad was always the person who encouraged me in everything I done.  He worked  hard to provide his family with everything we could ever ask for. He loved me, protected me.  He was my hero.

In 2010 My Dad who was in the building trade, a trained electrician was building yet another extension onto the house.  He turned to me and asked what a double sided screw was.  I was confused , after all my Dad had done this work all his life.  This type of thing was second nature to him.  I brushed it off as stress and carried on.  However lots of little things kept happening.  It was always brushed off as stress because of recent family deaths and building the house.

My Mum took my Dad to the doctors because of his unusual behaviour.  He had crashed a car, became frustrated at small things and his confidence was lower than I had ever seen .  I guess this is where my care for Dad started.  I began driving him to doctor’s appointments, sitting in waiting rooms and asking questions when he would come out.  Sometimes he wouldn’t say much, sometimes he would be angry because he felt like he was being asked stupid questions and didn’t need to see a doctor.

As months became years, and we were not getting any diagnosis for Dad, it became clear to our family that we would need to fight to get Dad the help he needed.  We knew there was much more going on with Dad than just  stress.  By this point he was off of work and he hated it.  I spent as much time as I could with him.  Doing anything or sometimes nothing, just being there.  Dad was now struggling to use his hands, hands that had literally built houses from the ground up. I don’t think anyone will ever understand how frustrating that was for him.  I was watching my dad struggle so much. My mum had to try and work full time. She would leave lunch out for him every day, I went and made sure he had ate it.  I sometimes  would take him lunch so he didn’t feel like I was just checking up on him.

As the months rolled on Dad became paranoid.   This wasn’t a constant state for him, it was a completely random , like a switch.  He had a huge focus on money and people stealing from him.  He seemed to trust me because he would ask me to hide money .  This was one of the hardest points in my Dads Illness for me, I had to lie to him, I had to promise that I wouldn’t tell my Mum, then walking out the door and calling her to tell her everything that had just happened.  I felt like I was deceiving him however I knew I had to tell my Mum.  It wasn’t a pleasant time for us at all.  I knew it was part of whatever illness my dad had but it didn’t make it any easier.

I was now pregnant with my daughter who was born in November 2015.  My Dad was so excited to be a Grandad. During my pregnancy he made jokes about my morning sickness. We discussed all my plans for the baby.  My husband was keeping him and my mum up to date with what was happening through my labour.  He was that excited to meet his Grandchild that he made Mum drive him to the hospital before my daughter was even born.   I have never felt I made him prouder than giving him his first Grandchild.  She is named after him, Mia James.

Shortly after Mia was born, Dad got worse.  His paranoia became more severe, I was with him everyday.  Sometimes I would visit and he would be crying, not sure what was happening to him. He didn’t trust people and I was trying to be the shoulder for him to lean on.  Mum and I were still going to appointments with doctors.  They made him do various tests, simple memory and co-ordination tests.  It was heart breaking watching my hero, the man I called Dad, fade.

We still didn’t have an official diagnosis, Mum and I were convinced Dad had dementia. Mum and I started going to classes for young onset dementia.  By now things were extremely difficult at home. Dad was becoming aggressive, this is hard to describe as it wasn’t all the time.  He was confused, we told story after story to people we thought would help but we got very little direction,  we spent hours in tears.  After every one I would go and pick Dad up and take him for lunch with Mia. These are particularly special memories to me. Even though his health was declining, Dad loved being out showing his granddaughter off.

Around this time things became pretty much unmanageable at home. Dads confusion became worse and his behaviour was unpredictable.  During one episode Dad didn’t sleep for 5 days.  Mum was advised to stay out of the house.  We had no help.  My sister and I stayed with Dad.  He would leave the house and go wander the streets, He had issues walking so my sister or I would follow.  We managed to get him home, sometimes he would come back, other times he would cry or argue with us. It felt so unnatural to tell my dad he couldn’t leave the house.  During the 5th day with still no help Dad left the house again in the middle of the night.  It was pouring with rain and this time we lost track of him.  We made the difficult decision to call the police.  This was all over the course of Mias first birthday weekend. Making the choice to continue with my daughters party or care for dad was extremely difficult, In the end dad got sectioned on her birthday.

From November to June we spent visiting Dad in hospital every day. We constantly reassured him that he had done nothing wrong and that he would be home again to be with his family. His speech was starting to decline as well as his mobility.  10 days after being released from hospital dad lost all mobility.  Mum was now off of work, we spent every day caring for dad.  We had to wash him, take him to the toilet and feed him.  Dad didn’t want me helping him with his personal needs but who else was there?  I had to care for my dad, I also had to work  and care for my family too.

Dads illness was getting worse. He was declining rapidly. I moved my wedding forward and dad came down the aisle with me.  It was the best feeling seeing a massive smile across his face when he first seen me in my dress. I am so happy he was part of our day.  I felt like his little girl again.

Shortly after, dad stopped eating. He was really ill, sleeping all the time.  We called numerous doctors who came to visit.  I stayed with mum a lot, I called my sister to come home. We all made the decision to call 999.  This was the last time Dad was home.  He went to Wishaw general  He was then moved to St Andrews hospice.  For the next 10 weeks my dad was looked after amazingly.  We watched him sometimes smile, cuddle Mia, eat ice cream and form amazing bonds with nurses who can only be described as saints.  On the 14th of February Dad lost his fight.  That night he became my angel. I am proud he is my Dad and I got to care for and love him.

This was one of the hardest points in my Dads Illness for me, I had to lie to him, I had to promise that I wouldn’t tell my Mum, then walking out the door and calling her to tell her everything that had just happened.  I felt like I was deceiving him however I knew I had to tell my Mum.  It wasn’t a pleasant time for us at all.