My Demented Dad


I was born in Giffnock, but raised in England until the age of nine. I returned to Glasgow – with an English accent! – and went to my first gig (Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Engelbert  Humperdinck and the Walker Brothers at Green’s Playhouse) and got my  first job (at the BBC in Queen Margaret Drive).  I moved to London with the BBC and enjoyed a busy and eventful freelance career in TV and DVD production ever since. Now back in Glasgow – where an English accent isn’t nearly so exotic these days – I'm combining working on various media-related projects with the care of my Dad, who has dementia.


  • I first heard about the LCP two years ago when Dad was desperately ill and a young trainee doctor came to the house.  He had just finished his placement in a hospital and was adamant Dad should go to A&E.

    ‘But why?’ I asked.

    ‘So that we can do an X-ray and confirm my diagnosis’. He said

    ‘Which is pneumonia, right?’


  • One was easier to fix than the other. A phone call to Scottish Gas, the quoting of our Maintenance Contract number and the mention of a ‘vulnerable adult’ meant that the boiler was up and running again the same day.

    As for the microwave – I’ve never been a fan and hardly ever use it. But on this occasion I wanted to defrost something and it seemed the perfect tool. It was only a plastic tub of pasta sauce, so no idea why the thing complained. But complain it did, and then put on a fireworks display which was very clearly its swansong.

  • 'It must be very different from London' she said, with a wistful, Brigadoon-ish tone in her voice.

    It is true that at this time of year it's light until almost midnight, (and for Dad, growing up near Wick, there really was such a thing as a midnight tennis tournament). We can see the hills from the top of our road, which is only a few miles from Glasgow City Centre and there is an unhurried, spacious feel about the place. It made me wonder what other differences I had noticed since I've been back.

  • I said no, there wasn’t a cat, but would he like one?

    ‘Definitely not’ Dad said.

    ‘What about a dog?’

    ‘No!’ even more firmly.

  • But as my favourite niece might say: ‘Seriously?! Who isn’t aware of dementia!’ And she would be right. There is something in the papers, on the radio, in the news, on Twitter every single day about dementia, so you’d have to work pretty hard not to have any awareness of it. Certainly everyone I know, knows somebody who is affected by it. A friend; a friend of a friend or a relative.

    I wonder, though, if it’s awareness we need, or if it’s enlightenment.

  • One of the siblings came up to visit Dad for the first time in about 18 months. He originally planned to stay just three days but, because his car broke down, he found himself stranded here for over a week.

  • There was a Bridget Jones Diary style monitoring of the daily intake:

    Aricept x 1

    Antacid tablets x 2

    Aspirin x 1

    Senna tablets x 2

  • I’m thinking particularly of the Boston marathon bombings, the explosion at the fertiliser plant in Texas and the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

  • He has already outlived his mother by 20 years and his father by 10 and is, in his own words, well passed his sell-by date. Thanks to the life-span lottery he is still going strong in his nineties, but I'm under no illusion about what’s ahead.

    What I'm hoping for is a peaceful, at-home death, during our GP’s normal working hours so that he can register the death, making it as calm and straightforward as possible.

    But should Dad be unlucky enough to die out of surgery hours, or at the weekend, or away from home, things may not be so easy.

  • But for Dad it was just rather confusing, having to be woken up ‘in the middle of the night’ as he saw it, so we’ve been introducing him to British Summertime gradually.

    If there’s anything that Dad really hates it’s the process of waking up in the morning, regardless of the time, but especially when it’s still dark. 

  • We all sat up in our seats to see what was going on.  Three rows ahead of me someone had been taken ill.  At first no-one moved; we held our breath while the cabin crew listened for a response. And then a man appeared who we assumed, and hoped, was a doctor.  He was Italian and started talking to the sick man.

  • It may be because we’ve had a change in carer, something which didn’t bother Mum when she was being looked after, because she didn’t have dementia. But for Dad the change of face, of voice, accent, touch and smell brings with it a feeling of uncertainly and he retreats into himself.

  • ‘We’re here to talk to you about your Fire Action Plan’, one of them said.

    My what plan?

    ‘What you would do in case of a fire?’

    Wasn't that rather obvious?

    ‘Well, I’d dial 999 and ask for you guys!’ I said.

    ‘But what would you do between making that call and us arriving? How would you make yourself as safe as possible until then? And what measures have you taken to prevent a fire starting in the first place?’

    I realised I didn’t have a clue.

  • At the end of the interview Phyllida was asked whether she had made plans for her own old age. She laughed and said ‘Well, I have two daughters, who are quite helpful already’. The interviewer agreed enthusiastically. ‘Yes, yes I’ve got two daughters too, so…fingers crossed!’

  • ‘If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to be able to take care of someone else?’ is the oft repeated mantra.

    So with that in mind I booked a short break to visit friends in Italy last November. I also took out insurance which was just as well because this was the very week that Dad was rushed into hospital.

    I made a claim and, with the help of Dad’s very accommodating doctor who filled in a lengthy medical declaration form, I got (most of) my money back.

  • I hadn’t had much experience of caring for the elderly at that stage. I only ever really knew one grandparent and, although we saw him often, I was shielded from any discussions about what to do when he started to decline.

    In the end Grandpa went into a kind of sheltered accommodation, but not for very long. He died in hospital when I had just turned 20 and my biggest preoccupation was finding a fake fur Cossack style hat for the February funeral.

  • I’ve been part of Shona Brown’s Soundroutes choir which meets in a room above a bar in George Square – I still can’t get over being able to drive there in about 10 minutes and always find a parking space. And that it’s FREE to park after 6pm. (Note to Sassenachs: George Square is the Glasgow equivalent of Trafalgar Square.)

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My Demented Dad

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Jill Sinclair

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