5x12 pentomino tiling
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A young carer's story - one of the statistics

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Sophie and her grandparentsThree people in my family have or have had dementia. I lost my great grandfather to dementia at the age of 12. He was 94 years of age and just wanted to give up. My maternal grandparent's cared for him, until he had his leg amputated and developed dementia. From then on he was in a care home. I remember helping out a little bit with this when I was younger. I didn't do as much as I do now though. I remember sitting on his lap and him telling me stories of the 'olden days'. My favourite stories were when he told me about the Second World War, which he fought in. That's where I developed a love of history. In 2006, my grandpa (as I used to call him), passed away, a few days before Christmas. I was devastated. I knew a little bit about dementia, but not much, but I hoped I would not have to go through it again. Well I was wrong.

I am now a carer for my maternal grandparent's who have dementia. My grandmother is in a care home now, but I still care for her, I ring her up every week and ask how she is and I visit her once in a while as I am now at university. I cared for my granddad up until January this year (2015), when we were told that he wasn't coping well enough. He was diagnosed with 'senile dementia', though I think that he has 'vascular dementia', but I won't go into that. At least I know he has dementia. I think it is fair to say that dementia runs in my family. I keep telling myself that I don't want to get dementia, but it may be inevitable.

I started caring for my grandparent's before they developed dementia, as they have other health conditions and mental health problems. I am not going to say that it is easy. I started caring for them at the age of 11, when my grandma fell down the stairs. She suffered brain damage and this is progressive now. Her personality has changed and she is ageing too. She is frail, has age-related problems and has her health conditions too. It is like losing your grandma three times over - due to her falling down the stairs, due to her ageing and due to her dementia. It is difficult, as I am very close to my grandmother. In fact when I was younger, I used to call her my 'mammy grandma'. Still to this day, I call her that and on purpose too!

My granddad has always been the person to push me in terms of my education. That's why I want to do my Master's degree and my PhD. I want to do it for myself but do it for him. The only thing is, he won't understand. Both of my grandparent's will not be able to make it to my graduation. I know this as a fact. That for me is going to be so hard, because my grandparent's have brought me up. I am going to be honest and say that I am crying writing this. My grandparent's are so special to me and to not have them at my graduation is heartbreaking. They will watch it on a DVD of course, but having them there would mean the world to me. It won't be the same. When I get my Master's and my PhD, I am dedicating them both, to them and my other family members of course. I feel like I'm losing my granddad twice over too, he has dementia as I mentioned before and he is getting older too. The sad fact is that both of my grandparent's are in their 60's. So to me they aren't old, but they most certainly are different people.

I must stress that although they are different people on the outside, they are still the same people in my head. I still have the memories from my childhood. Even though they won't remember, I do and that is something no-one can take away from me. I will treasure the pictures I have with them, because one day these two very important people will be gone completely. It seems selfish, but I dislike visiting them sometimes, because it just reminds me of what once was. I don't resent them in any way. How could I? Why would I? They can't help it and neither can I. All I know is that being a carer for people with dementia is hard, difficult, heartbreaking, upsetting...and a lot more. But I will always remember the good things that being a carer for people with dementia brings. It gives you joy, happiness, love and admiration. I am truly inspired by my grandparents. I get to spend extra time with them. What more could I ask for?

Sophie Dishman @sophieSW14

Tags: carers, relationships Written 2015-03-16

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