Throughout her life my Mother was a beautiful and elegant person and thus I found the deterioration of her appearance during dementia extremely distressing. When she passed away I was moved to tears by the dozens of letters that commented on her perfect appearance.
This Christmas thousands of people across the country will be alone; they won't be alone in the conventional sense of not having a place stay, or people to look out for them: they will face exclusion because of an illness that can change the very person they used to be.
This will be the fifth Christmas that Mary has had to share with dementia. The first Christmas was the one where she couldn't remember whether she had bought enough snacks for everyone and ended up with six family packs of peanuts. Then she forgot to turn the oven on, so dinner was four hours late...
You are stuck in a busy, noisy, unfamiliar building. You are unsure of where you are or even what time of year it is. All the corridors look the same. You find it hard to judge how far away the floor is. You can't remember where the toilets are. You can't remember why you're here. You feel a rising sense of panic as you search for clues to where you are, and even who you are.
My mum doesn't know who I am. Sadly, I don't mean that in a spiritual, angsty kind of way - she literally has no idea who I am. Sometimes I'm one of her sisters. Sometimes I'm a nurse. Sometimes I'm her dead mother. Once I was Shirley Bassey, which made for an interesting evening.
Last week, the social care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, agreed to publish guidance for the public and care home providers on the use of overt and covert surveillance in care homes.
They don't tell you about the friends she's had for years who gradually stop coming to visit because they 'hate seeing her like that'. I'm pretty sure she hates being 'like that' too, but she could really do with a friend. They'll all be at her funeral though, because that's what friends are for, isn't it?
This potentially fatal condition occurs when the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen become narrowed by a build-up of fatty material potentially leading to blood clots and fatal heart attacks. Risk factors include things like smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Perhaps the cruelest aspect of Alzheimer's is that it robs families of their loved ones before they are truly gone. Loss of memories and physical abilities frustrates patients and pains family. Every health professional who works with Alzheimer's looks forward to the day when patients can be told there is a cure.
Right at the beginning of Jerome K Jerome's masterpiece "Three men in a boat," the hero picks up a medical dictionary and discovers that he has the symptoms of every disease mentioned with the exception of housemaid's knee. The prescription he is given surprises him. After beer, steak, exercise and early bedtimes, it ends with the words "and don't stuff up your head with things you don't understand."
Ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? You are not alone. Research from Bupa has identified that two thirds of adults (63%) admit to suffering embarrassing or annoying 'memory blots' three or more times a week.
The new figures show more than twice as many people in the UK have dementia before the age of 65 than was thought. It's estimated 42,000 people have young onset dementia (also called early onset dementia) - including thousands of cases among those in their 40s, and more than 700 cases among those in their 30s.
It had never occurred to me that I could affect my brain through food or drink until I suffered really serious brain fog, a term that has been used rather loosely to define that muddled feeling, which causes us to act out of character, sometimes rather zanily, forgetting little things (the keys) and sometimes big things (where the car is parked).
I was thirteen and three-quarters at the time. And although kissing somebody was on my bucket list, Great Auntie Maud looked nothing like a) Andrew Ridgeley from Wham, b) John Taylor, the bass guitarist from Duran Duran, or c) Stephen Jones from Form 3C, who were the usual objects of my kissing fantasies.
It's Autumn, well and truly. Equinox fell the weekend before last. Autumn is always new year in my heart. Not for me the arbitrariness of a new year in January when the Northern Hemisphere is in darkness. Rather, Autumn, when the air is full of life and death, possibilities and change. That's my new year.
I am always immensely uncomfortable when anyone tries to put a monetary value on dementia, purely because I know that there is so much more to calculating the 'cost' of dementia than could ever be accurately represented by the use of pound signs. The emotional, all-encompassing, life-changing (and life-shortening) effects of dementia reach far and wide into every family affected.