I was living in France when the changes really started. Whilst my brother was graduating from college in America, we went over there and I hadn’t seen my grandad in a while by that point. The changes I saw were really stark; he was forgetting words like ‘vegetable’ and he would get lost when he was walking around.
Around the same time, I was diagnosed with a mood disorder where everything felt like an extreme emotion – I was either up or down and there was no in between at all. It was a tough time as I didn’t feel as though I had a purpose, particularly when I was trying to start again career-wise as I wanted to do something that was more rewarding. Meanwhile my parents and my grandma were getting increasingly stressed at their caring responsibilities with grandad. It took quite a few months for them to come round to the idea of me looking after him as they didn’t want me to be put under pressure.
Bernie and a furry friend
Supporting my family to accept him and to accept myself
It was last year that I really started to get involved with grandad at 29. I’ve spent more time with him now than I ever did.
It’s unbelievable how similar dementia is to my own challenges. He really senses it when he’s being talked to in a condescending way, in the same way that I do.
There’s still so much stigma around dementia and that’s something that I acutely feel with my own mental health. I remember helping my grandad to cross the road and someone in the car was beeping and telling us to hurry up – this to me showed a complete lack of respect. I was quite adamant that the person doing that would just have to wait until we had crossed the road.