Daughter tells of sadness at seeing her father coping with dementia
With the news that a new care home specifically for people with dementia is to open in July, and a Government pledge to double funding for research in the illness by 2015, Colette Stirling speaks to the daughter of a sufferer.
IT IS one of the most common diseases to affect people in the UK and yet many people are still unaware of the symptoms of dementia. But Linda Stirling is not one of them.
Her father, Samuel Neilson, was diagnosed with vascular dementia several years ago, yet at first doctors diagnosed him with Alzheimer's disease – the most common form of dementia.
Linda explained: "When my mother died in 2005, I stayed with him for two weeks as his carer.
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"I didn't know he had dementia then, so I just handled it with an inner strength, the way anyone would when faced with that situation.
"One night he came into his bedroom looking lost and confused, he picked up a picture of his wife, sat and cried – I just held him, not knowing what else to do."
It is said 2,975 people in North East Lincolnshire will be living with dementia in 2025.
Linda, 54, of Toothill Gardens, Grimsby, is one of many who suffer the sadness of seeing a relative coping with the condition.
"To see a fine gentleman turn into a shell is heart-breaking," she said.
He's still my dad and when I see him I make sure a smile is on my face, because it will upset him to see me unhappy."
Linda works as a senior administrator for Commissioning and Business Improvement and tries to see her dad as much as she can, but because he lives in Grange Hall care home on the borders of Scotland, her visits become all the more precious.
"Whenever I go to see him I always get a good conversation, he smiles and laughs and says to me, 'oh you're a good lass'," said Linda.
"He's always on my mind and I don't think a day goes by without me worrying about him, but you've got to put it to the back of your mind and accept it."
Despite the attempts to raise awareness of the disease, only 40 per cent of people living with it receive a diagnosis and as it stands, 60,000 deaths a year are directly related to dementia.
Linda firmly believes if more people knew about the symptoms we would be much closer to finding a cure.
"I think there needs to be more people employed to just sit and talk to them and generate conversation to keep their minds alert. If people were diagnosed quicker they could lead a better way of life for longer.
"They say it is hereditary, but I'm not sure if it's true," Linda said.
"But knowing what I see with my dad, I wouldn't want to be like that. I'd rather die with dignity."