What feels like years ago now, I bullishly dragged my what then seemed like a rather young father into a GP’s office on account of a few (what I believed to be) post-retirement, wine-induced wobbles. I guess my confidence was fuelled by my naive belief that a) he was too young to be diagnosed with dementia and b) I was too young to lose my father. I took him in thinking my acknowledgement would somehow shield us all from any actual diagnosis: an infection maybe, a manifestation of old age, a dodgy opticians appraisal, anything... He was 68, and I 27. Almost 5 years on, with what has been the hardest journey of both of our lives, we’ve entered the denouement. And no one tells you how it’s going to be. First it was the spatial, then the short term, and so on. More recently linguistic, what once bonded us as best friends. We all experience dementia differently, and through the groups I’ve taken him to over the years I’ve never met any carer less than 20 years older than me. Not to say I don’t learn and appreciate from those I’ve met, but sometimes (guiltily) I feel as if whilst others are in tandem with those they are losing, Ive had no choice but to give up part of my young life. It’s only recently that I’ve felt this way, now he doesn’t remember me, sometimes fears me, sometimes cries for his mother, only now I wonder if all of it was in vain, to have poured so much of my young self into a vacuum that’s taken him and inadvertently started to take me. I miss him, but I also miss me, and I’ve started to realise that what once was a valiant gesture to look after one who was once so pertinent and powerful in my life, has become my epitaph, my life, my only purpose. Caring can feel so powerful when you feed your strength to another, but it can also feel like as a carer you are reliant in your own role after so many years. Has this defined me as opposed to being a supporting role? Who am I? I barely even know anymore. The main struggle I contend with now as things become so menially demanding (such as toilet, 24/hr care) is when to make the call to ask for help, and how on earth to regain a sense of self after such a prolonged period of care. If anyone can shed light on it I’m so so eager to hear it. The thought of passing my father into someone else’s hands both terrifies and mortifies me, as if it’s a failure, but I also know how ridiculous that sounds, as I’m probably the least qualified person to cater for his needs in these later stages. I’ve found that the care homes close by have varied reviews and I don’t know how my father would fare with going from being out into a larger environment, alone, and how could my conscience cope with such a delegation? Guilt abounds, preemptively. Apologies for the rant, I’ve never spoken on a forum like this, and I guess the anonymity allows for a free flow. I guess with other ailments there’s either a definitive loss or recovery, or in terms of level of care, that similar to the needs of children. But children grow and recognise, so I say there is no comparison. We are alone together.