My grandfather, or popa as I called him had Lewy-Body Dementia. A particularly cruel form of Alzheimer’s mixed with Parkinson’s disease. He passed away several years ago now but it’s still raw. Watching someone you’ve loved and who’s loved you disappear and be eaten up by this disease is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. And they are eaten, large chunks are devoured by the ever hungry disease, it’s appetite is never satiated until all that’s left is a husk of a person.
I am very thankful though for all the amazing memories I have with my popa and all the things he taught me. My popa, like many other miners, liked to gamble so he taught me how to play a mean set of cards. He always had time to play board games with me, learning me patience and perseverance. We also used to go the longest walks in our local country park. But the path was too boring for us, most of the time we’d walk up the large stones in the river seeing how far we could go before we ultimately gave in and resorted to the path. He’d take me butterfly hunting and learned me how to whistle, and countless other things which I am eternally grateful for. I adored him, I still do.
When we were first told my popa had dementia he remained living at home with my gran for several years before his health took a turn for the worse and he moved into a nursing home. During the time at home my popa received community support, some of which he took part in and others he didn’t want anything to do with ha. One of his favourite outings was to his local community centre where he met up with other ex-miners and played cards or dominoes. Community projects play a vital role for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, it’s a way of tackling the illness while still retaining as sense of self in the community. There’s a whole range of community projects for those with Alzheimer’s to take part in West Lothian and I imagine there will be similar resources in your area too. One of the projects that works particularly well for people suffering memory problems is something called The Living Memory Project. They have Reminiscence Centres full of memorabilia to help bring memories back such as one at Almondvale Centre, where Hush Hair used to be.