My Dad drank too much. He drank so much that he now has dementia. He remembers who I am but he has no idea who the prime minister is (ok, a better example - he doesn't know the day, month or season never mind the year). He's unaware of his difficulties and strongly defends his independence. So until recently he rejected any help.

He forgets to clean his teeth, to shave and to change his clothes. He gets bored easily - ignoring the TV, books, puzzles and even visitors. He goes to walk in the park and gets abuse from kids and their parents who are suspicious of a dirty looking old man smiling at them.

And the alcohol addiction has affected his appetite. He obsesses about sweet things and eats jam from the jar and sugar from the packet.

A year ago, a rogue trader called repeatedly at the house, charging him for bogus work. Dad paid him. The same con artist visited regularly to escort my father to the Cashpoint. The police could do nothing. So I got Power of Attorney for Dad's finances. Internet shopping is great. But when he rans out of sweet stuff. He'd grab an old Kidney Donor Card, convinced it had credit value and headed to the Supermarket.

Sainsbury's were brilliant - they wouldn't even let me pay them back. I phoned them after the police called me (Dad begged the pc not to ring me - he said he'd rather go to prison). The role reversal was bizarre but it was the perfect fillip to get Social Services involved.

With a one morning a week placement at the wonderful Sydenham Gardens (I took him on his first morning and yes, more bizarreness) and a Carer who comes in daily to ration sweets and help him wash and put on clean clothes, things are much improved. It's tough though, to wish someone else's independence away.

Di Cunningham


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