Just under four months ago, my Granddad died. I think the official cause of death was pneumonia but the real cause of losing Granddad was dementia. We had slowly been losing him, his playful, jokey character, over a few years. What started out as being a bit forgetful – mixing up names, going out without a coat etc, soon turned into more dangerous territory – getting on the wrong bus and finding himself in unknown places, attacking a paramedic who was trying to help him after a fall. It got bad enough that he was a danger to himself and couldn’t live alone.

Then we were in nursing home territory, which was heartbreaking – he seemed to shrink into himself in the unfamiliar environment, would get both physically and verbally abusive, believing that everyone was out to get him. Visits were a bit like Russian roulette – you didn’t know which Granddad you would get and always hoped you would get the one that sang along to Matt Monro and wanted to look at family pictures asking again and again ‘Who’s that?’.  There were bright points like when we arrived for a visit and found him chatting up the staff members twirling her round the dining room but they were soon few and far between.

Watching my Granddad deteriorate was hard and it was just as hard watching my Dad and his sisters try to cope, always worrying whether they were doing the right thing. We were lucky in some ways as even at the end he was still Granddad. On what was to be my last visit to see Granddad in hospital he stuck his tongue out at me before I left – it was lovely that even though he probably knew he was dying that there was still a bit of his old self shining through. I like to think that even though he couldn’t tell you our names in his last days, he knew that we were family and that we loved him.

Today I did the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk in his name. I didn’t walk that far – just four miles and I didn’t do it alone – as well as many people walking in memory of others, there was my sister and two of my cousins walking alongside of me. And we were cheered on by other members of our family – the first time we had all been together since the funeral. So today was a day of celebration, a celebration of Granddad’s life and our family.

Here’s to you Granddad – you may not be with us any more but you still hold us together