Alison’s story

December 18, 2020

We speak to Alison Cottle from Leeds Building Society about her support from Admiral Nurses pre-and during the pandemic  

Alison Cottle is the Branch Manager for Southampton and also the Vice Chair for the Colleagues Association with our corporate partners at Leeds Building Society. We spoke to her about the ongoing challenges of visiting her father in care during the pandemic, and the support she received from Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses at this time

Dementia isn’t an easy condition. My dad John, who was fit and healthy with a real sense of humour, became a blank canvas as the confusion of dementia took hold. Whilst he couldn’t recognise some of the closest members of his family, like my two children, it became a particular strain on my mum who was living with him 24/7.

Alison and father smiling

Dementia diagnosis and going into a care home

It was difficult for her to accept the fact that my dad has dementia. We were all told four years ago that he had it but I think symptoms started way before then. My mum did panic at first and found him a care home that wasn’t right for him. I was able to find him a more suitable home for someone with dementia, which gave him the right medication, and put on a range of activities for him, like arts and crafts, singing and dancing.

Even with all this support going on though, I still broke down in tears whenever I saw him. He was just not the same dad I knew, with the confusion; not only did he not know who I was, he didn’t know who he was either, and he had other behaviour that was so upsetting.  One day he started talking to a plant, another day he would have an argument with a lamp, and he would ask questions with no seeming context, such as “when is the coach coming?” or “have you got the tickets ready?”

Alison and father smiling

Admiral Nurse support

It was at this point that I was introduced to the Admiral Nurses through the care home, who gave the family carers of each of the residents with dementia such invaluable training. It changed my life as it was obvious that the Admiral Nurses know the ins and outs of dementia. I could understand what my dad was going through according to what his symptoms were. I could go and see him and I would no longer be upset.

They also taught me to see the bigger picture and that he’s still a person behind the condition. If his face lights up then he remembers I make him feel happy.  If he walks round with me and holds my hand then he feels safe with me.  If he stays with me when I visit instead of walking off then he likes my company; Admiral Nurses reinforced all of those things to me.

Difficulties during the pandemic

Of course, with everything going on right now with the pandemic, I have been unable to see my father. We can only do garden visits but this just isn’t suitable for my dad as he just doesn’t want to go outside. I remember going to see him every Saturday after work and he’d give me a big hug and kisses and call me ‘popsy.’ He knows I’m supposed to be there. Ever since lockdown, he’s gone back to that glazed look and I’m just not sure he knows who I am anymore. I’m the only one he can turn to as it’s just too upsetting for my mum to visit him in care.

I know that Admiral Nurses have been absolutely key in helping me understand dementia and to see past it, and to know that the carers working in the home are trying their absolute best in such a difficult situation.

With the partnership with Leeds Building Society, it feels really great to be able to give something back. Dementia UK and its Admiral Nurses have helped me so much and I want other people to benefit from their vital support at such a challenging time.

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