The Dementia Diaries pt 4

The Dementia Diaries pt 4 – by Eve Grace

Follow our resident author Eve Grace as she accompanies her grandma on her dementia journey – instalment 4 is here!

Missed instalments one, two or three? Find them here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Every other Saturday, I would visit my grandma Joan at her care home in Cheshire. Joan had dementia, diagnosed a few years earlier, and moved into the care home after breaking her hip and leaving hospital with limited movement.

Always a practical and contented person even before the dementia set in, Joan was quite happy in her surroundings, with the company of just a few other ladies and the smiley staff. Now in her late 80s, Joan enjoyed the simple things in life: TV, anything sweet, an evening brandy and a couple of sly cigarettes over the course of the day.

This Saturday, we were due to visit Joan and made our way over to Cheshire on the usual 40-minute drive. I wondered how we’d find Joan today: her dementia had been getting worse for some time, we’d noticed. She would often stare into space for prolonged periods, and had forgotten things like where places were located, people’s names, and the uses of some day-to-day objects.

Dementia is a sad decline, no doubt about it, but when I visited with my teenage daughter Niamh, Joan was all beams. She might not remember our names anymore, but there was still recognition of our faces, and her mouth would spread into a wide smile whenever she saw us.

“Hello, Joan!” we greeted her in the sitting room, and as predicted, she gave us a lovely warm smile and a hug each.

“We’ve come to take you out, Joan,” we told her, loudly – she was somewhat deaf.

We’d decided to make the most of the fine spring weather and take Joan out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Another resident kindly lent us her wheelchair and after much shuffling, Joan was soon strapped in, all wrapped up in a warm coat with a blanket over her legs.

Having never pushed a wheelchair before, I found it much heavier than expected. The first hurdle was getting over the road: there was a crossing not too far away but it was down an incline, which made for a few hair-raising moments as the wheelchair hurtled towards the road while Niamh and I attempted to steer it to safety.

Ambiance Care - dementia care in StockportOnce over the crossing, the three of us laughing with relief to have narrowly avoided a few near misses, we navigated the bumpy pavement, which stopped at an abrupt kerb where cars could turn into the adjacent pub car park. One almighty heave later and Joan was lifted down, and so we continued on our tour of the neighbourhood.

I hadn’t really explored the area beyond the care home before but in hindsight, I wish I had, because it turned out to be as hilly as it was bumpy: this first-time wheelchair steerer had her work cut out.

As we walked, rather slowly – but as fast as I could propel the wheelchair as a short woman just shy of 5’2 – we admired some lovely houses, perfectly manicured gardens and brushed past many a budding bush, with Joan delighted by the flowers she was able to see and smell. We pointed out crocuses and daffodils popping up from the earth, watched the sparrows digging for worms and enjoyed the moments of warm sunlight beating down on our faces.

It may have been chilly outdoors but the combination of sun and the strength required to push the wheelchair uphill (and pull it going back down) soon had us breaking a sweat. Joan smiled happily, taking in everything she saw, while Niamh and I wrestled with the wheelchair, all of us laughing at Joan’s voice shuddering comically as we navigated the uneven surfaces and perilously slanting pathways.

Having walked in a big circle, we realised we’d soon be facing the final uphill incline on the return to the care home. Rounding a tight corner, we paused at the bottom of the hill to catch our breath before attempting what we knew would be a true feat of strength.

“Are you ready to go up this very steep hill, Joan?” I asked, breathlessly.

“Ready when you are!” she responded with gusto.

“It’s going to be a long climb to the top!” Niamh bellowed as we began the ascent, and suddenly Joan piped up with a rousing rendition of ‘She’ll be coming round the Mountain when she comes’, the three of us singing joyously between breaths and afterwards, laughing until we couldn’t speak.


After a long slog up the hill and back to the care home, we made Joan comfortable again in the sitting room. She sighed contentedly, looking sleepy. “I love it when you come to see me,” she said, smiling at us both, her hazel eyes creasing up at the corners.

We gave Joan a hug before leaving and I lingered a moment to give her an extra squeeze. My lovely grandma. A single hot tear escaped as we left – unseen to anyone, but deeply felt, nonetheless.

To be continued…