‘Every day, every hour and every second with Mum is different’ Shobna Gulati

‘Auntie, aren’t you the funniest?’ the family would say to Mum in response to her dry humour and quick wit. And despite the slow onset of vascular dementia, that devilish twinkle is still in her eyes – most recently sharing a giggle at how handsome Rock Hudson was in his heyday.

Mum was definitely the matriarch of the family. And the community.

She brought me and my three siblings up, she helped me raise my son. In fact, she helped bring up a lot of the family where we grew up.

‘Who’s ironed the shirts? Who’s got the PE kit?’, Mum kept us all in check.

Looking back now the early changes were so marginal and so easy to put down to other things – tiredness, stress. You could always find an explanation.

We’ve always been close. Living around the corner to Mum meant she’s always been a major influence in my life. When I had to choose a +1 for red carpets events, it would always be Mum. We’d do things in the community, charity and social events and visits.

It’s not so easy for Mum to keep up any more these days and she prefers to stay at home.

The first warning signs

The first signs that something was wrong was when Mum’s normal character seemed to dial up a few notches. At first our arguments would seem different, lasting for days rather than hours. I’d anguish over what I’d done so wrong to upset her.

She’d get confused when out in the car, even though she’d lived in the area her whole life. I vividly remember one day Mum came to pick me up from the set of Coronation Street, which she knew so well. But she got lost for two hours trying to find me, with no mobile phone. Now, of course, she doesn’t drive and giving up that part of her independence was tough to negotiate in the beginning.

The past became so present for Mum. Rather than focusing on the practicalities of day-to-day life, she’d tell stories about her childhood that she’d never talked about before. Seeking comfort in those memories that she could still find and enjoy.

Mum is a headstrong lady and looking back, she covered the cracks for about three years before her diagnosis. None of us knew much about dementia before that. But when the diagnosis came, it was there in black and white: vascular dementia.

Then life started to change for us.

Every day is different

Today, Mum still loves singing in Hindi, watching her soap operas and murder mysteries, and hearing about the family and our lives. But every day, every hour, every second can be different.

Some days we laugh and laugh together, some days Mum just can’t find comfort in anything we try to offer. And every day we learn something new about how to help her.

Caring for mum is a family affair – split between me, my brother, one of my sisters and my son Akshay, with caring support from a family friend. There’s also great support from the local health authority and district nurses. Between us we’ve learnt the art of patience and negotiation, and the value of information.

There is so much stigma about dementia, particularly in South Asian communities. This weighs strongly on mum and to this day, she’s struggled to accept her diagnosis.

We watch mum trying, and failing, to come to terms with the idea of dementia. And that’s heartbreaking. Because it’s been less painful for her to shy away from the perceived stigma of the diagnosis than to share it, and that’s where things need to change for future generations.

Be brave and speak out

Vascular dementia has definitely made Mum more socially isolated, and more and more of today’s older generation is facing this future. It’s also isolating for carers, like me and my siblings.

In our community it’s normal for everyone to know everyone else’s business, it’s a very social affair. But when you’re struggling to cover cracks in normal life, it can also create a real social pressure.

Talking about dementia, and the value of research, is vital. It’s such an important way to break down these stigmas.

If we can talk about dementia and share experiences without judgement or taboo, we can create support systems and help people contribute for longer within society. We can also help people accept that they might be changing and adapt the world to make their lives easier.

Dementia is caused by diseases, there is no shame in that. Everyone is human and at some stage in our lives we’ll all get ill.

My hope for the future is that if my family has been brave enough to speak out about dementia, we might help others. And together, we’ll break down that stigma and support research into this debilitating disease.

That’s why Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Talk Dementia film, available in Hindi and Urdu, is such a fantastic resource for the wider British communities.

If you’re affected by dementia, please watch the film and read the facts about dementia. Take a moment to talk to those around you and see what happens.

I hope it opens doors for you and brings comfort.


  1. Irene Estry on 26th June 2019 at 6:21 am

    My darling Shobs my late mum Miriam suffered from Vascular Dementia , so I know only too well the impact this has on families . Thank you you for sharing your blog beautifully expressed which will help other families recognise and cope . My mum had times of laughter tears and confusion , and although it was difficult to cope with her ever changing moods .. we managed to enjoy lots of good times and giggles as she reminded my brother and I that we were still her naughty children. She passed away aged 95 ,6 yrs ago now ., and I miss her dreadfully , but know I did my best for her at the end

  2. Tee on 8th July 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Many thanks for sharing your family’s experience of vascular dementia, it will help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Best wishes to you all. Tee, X

  3. Gill on 10th July 2019 at 8:29 am

    I came across this blog by accident. We met briefly a few years ago, as your Mum and my Dad were on the same ward in hospital. My Dad was waiting to have a triple heart by-pass and your Mum was so kind and supportive. She phoned him a few weeks after he returned home, just to check on his progress. Despite all the odds my Dad recovered from the operation and his stubborn /determined nature helped him regain a level of fitness which astounded the doctors.

    Last year he fell and broke his hip. He is 88 and the experience/op to replace his hip has triggered dementia.
    He has physically recovered remarkably well, considering his other health issues. However, it’s not until someone close to you experiences this disease that you understand the full implications.
    Periods of lucidity/normality interspersed with paranoia- imagining someone has broken into the house – changing locks to give him peace of mind. Irrational outbursts of anger, constant repetitions of the same questions, periods of appearing vacant, inability to operate simple controls:phone/tv etc; confused as to why he can’t complete these simple tasks.
    On the positive side: recounting memories of childhood/youth in incredible detail. Recounting episodes of his past which he has never mentioned before. These make him sparkle with life again and he seems like my Dad once more – and I’m listening to his stories as I did when I was a child.

    Good luck to you, your Mum and family X

  4. David Williamson on 19th July 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mum this is a terrible way for our parents to end up my father had it before he sadly passed away it’s a hard job you have but she’s your mum my father lived away from we’re i live so he had to go in a home I went over has much has I could but I was working at the time so mostly weekends

  5. Dave Hellard on 22nd July 2019 at 7:09 am

    Helping Nurse My mum through alzheimers and vascular dementia, thank you for this article, obviously I know there are lots of people out there sharing the same experience but everyone I meet and every article I read of other peoples experiences helps you to feel less isolated.

  6. Bina Pabari on 23rd July 2019 at 8:12 am

    Exactly my story with my mum very hard indeed mum is not the same she was my best friend

    All I do is pray to jesus every day to give strength to look after mum

  7. sue robinson on 30th July 2019 at 1:09 pm

    i feel that in this day and age they ought to by now find a cure instead of pussyfooting around i strongly feel that if we forget things people can be labled as having dementia which can be very scary

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About the author

Shobna Gulati

Shobna Gulati is an British actress, dancer and writer. She is well-known for playing Anita in dinnerladies and Sunita Alahan in Coronation Street, but has since appeared in a host of TV, film and theatre roles. These include Richard II, Dr Who, and as a presenter on Loose Women. Shobna has starred in the stage version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and is about to start working on the film adaptation of the story. Shobna supports her mum who is living with dementia alongside her siblings and her son.