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Honouring Joseph Levy this Father’s Day

Jane Jason OBE talks about the fond memories of her father Joseph Levy, her experiences of dementia and the need to support carers.

My most favourite memories of my father, Joe, were at holiday time; swimming, eating outdoors in the garden he was so proud of, making us all laugh. He was brilliant with the grandchildren until sadly he could no longer communicate with them. They loved him as he bought them lots of sweets and ice creams and was always playing games! It makes me sad to know that later he became known as ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, due to his dementia.

The main memory though has to be of him on his boat in France. He just loved it and genuinely relaxed when on board, particularly when he could take the grandchildren out. He always wore a traditional captain’s hat which was the reason he was given his nickname “Admiral Joe”, the name behind Dementia UK’s vital Admiral Nurses.

Sadly, when he developed vascular dementia, the memories changed, though as a family we always tried to keep positive. He had been such a clever, sociable person so the mood swings, the strange behaviour and loss in communication became harder to bear, particularly for my mother who was with him the whole time.

In those days the lack of information about the condition was frustrating and we often felt as if we were floundering around in the dark; it was hard to find anyone with the relevant expertise of dementia to support us, which in turn led to the creation of Admiral Nurses who make it much easier for families to cope. We would have been reassured that not only were we caring for him adequately but also that we were not alone in facing this life-limiting condition.

There was one time when my dad kept on asking me who I was. I told him that I was his daughter and he responded by saying that he didn’t have a daughter. This was one of the most upsetting moments for me during his illness. I learnt later from Admiral Nurses that this behavior was not unusual nor was it his fault. There is so much we can learn from Admiral Nurses who continue to shine a light on the still largely forgotten needs of family carers, and their loved ones with dementia.

All families who have lost relatives may experience difficult feelings this Father’s Day. Having experienced the loss of my father in 1990, I understand how complex these might be. Fortunately however, I was soon able to remember him as he was and recall happier times on holidays and on his boat. Admiral Joe will always be in our hearts – my family are proud that his name continues through Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses.