How caring for her grandad who has dementia helps a Fylde coast woman with her own mental health

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A Fylde coast woman says caring for her grandad who has dementia has helped her own mental health.

 

Becky Farran cares for her grandad Bob, known as Bernie, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia

Becky Farran cares for her grandad Bob, known as Bernie, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia

When Becky Farran’s grandfather Bob, 77, was diagnosed with vascular dementia, her family faced a tough decision about how to care for him.

Despite living with a mood disorder, 30-year-old Becky became Bob’s primary carer.

Spending time with Bob – who is affectionately called Bernie by family after his second name, Bernard – allowed her to reflect on her own struggles with mental health.

Becky, who is also a part-time yoga teacher from Blackpool, said: “I take after my grandad as we’re straight-talking and that’s what made him so successful at the confectionery business he ran.

“Two years into retirement, grandad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in his early 70s.

“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.”

Becky really started to get involved with caring for her grandad last year, and she spends more time with him now than ever before.

Becky added: “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.

“It’s so tricky to know what’s truly going on in a person’s mind, but I take my grandad at face value, and I know he would do the same for me.

“I’ve learnt so much about my own mental health this year that it allows me to care for my grandad better.

“It’s taught me to realise that what my grandad needs is that calming presence.

“I notice when grandad is over-stimulated, and when he needs something.

“I know how to turn up his mood and energy. I’ve also learnt to have faith in what he is feeling, whether I understand it or not.

“Music definitely works to care for my grandad.

“I know the song that will get him dancing as well as the song which will make him think about different points of his life.

“There are still tough moments, but there are resources you can turn to.”

Becky says Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline has been an important support, and inspired her to look into becoming a volunteer ambassador for the charity.

Becky added: “This caring relationship with grandad has filled my heart to the brim; it’s helped me come out of my own struggles by focusing on the positive and precious moments we get,

rather than the challenges of a particular situation or even condition.”