This Christmas

It’s December, there’s a chill in the air and it’s time to wrap up warm. The high streets are bustling with shoppers all searching for gifts for family and friends. Children are getting excited at the prospect of a visit from Santa and Christmas is upon us once again. It’s a time for celebration, family and good times.

Christmas for our household usually means getting together with family, walking the dog along a windswept beach and a constant stream of eating and drinking. But this year, we’re facing the prospect of being one short for Christmas dinner.

My father has dementia. He’s been living at home, being cared for by my mother full-time, since his diagnosis. She’s tended to his every need, every minute of every day and every night too. It’s not just the physical tasks like getting dressed or walking, he also has difficulty finding the right words to express himself, so she’s had to do the thinking for him too. It’s an incredible amount of work. It’s exhausting. And it’s never ending.

She’s a trooper – she always has been, but without a break and with his condition manifesting in more challenging ways all the time, the situation is at breaking point. We’re really lucky, we’ve found a local care home who can give him the round-the-clock care he needs, in an environment and setting that is perfect for him.

It’s going to be a very different Christmas for all of us.

The timing means that this will be the first Christmas without my dad at home telling his terrible Christmas jokes, or trying to hide his uneaten sprouts from my mother. Although we’ll celebrate Christmas with him at the care home; it is going to be a very different Christmas for all of us.

We’re not alone. Thousands of other families up and down the country will also be coping with the effects of dementia in a myriad of ways this Christmas. It’s not something I would wish for anyone.

Extravagant or elaborate gifts won’t mean much to my father this yuletide.  And whilst he’ll still have plenty of gifts to open, this year I’ve decided to make a gift to Alzheimer’s Research UK in his name.  If the work that the charity funds means that more people can have a happy Christmas in years to come, then I know that would be gift my father would be proud of.


  1. Carolyn Causton on 19th December 2014 at 5:04 pm

    It must be so hard to have him not at home at Christmas – and amazing that you have chosen to share your story. Wishing you and your family the very best this festive season. May the memories you have sustain you all through this big change in your lives.

  2. Emma Carter on 19th December 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Oh Hayley such an amazingly well worded account of just how this illness affects a family! It’s challenging to say the least!! It’s hard to find words or encouragement in the face of such desperate and difficult times. Words are few! My thoughts of u and ur lovely family are plentiful! I wish u all a Merry Christmas albeit a very different one. I know u all have such wonderful strength of character to keep u going but I hope knowing others are thinking of u and wishing u well will also help u keep on trudging! Lots and lots of love xxxxxx

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About the author

Hayley Smith