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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Or am I losing my mind...? I was having lunch with a friend. We`d both seen our dads the day before. Both have dementia so, inevitably, we spent a fair amount of time comparing notes.

My visit involved quite a complicated journey: two stretches by car, a train journey to London and a  couple of tube trips...pretty much five hours each way. I`m quite a fan of travelling, and an even bigger fan of my dad, so that was OK.

When I got there, we had a plate of sandwiches and some coffee and a disjointed conversation about what he`d been up to (quite a lot, actually, but he`d forgotten most of it...). Then he dozed off.

It gave me and his partner the chance for one of those tricky conversations you have to have when your loved one`s brain is wrapped in the thick fog of dementia..and isn`t likely to clear any time soon. We chatted about he`s sleeping more and talking less, and how his dulled mind is so slow to react during the day, even with people he`s known a lifetime. But then it leaps into terrifying technicolour later with a double bill of nocturnal nightmares so vivid, that he wakes, and bizarrely, can relate their every detail with the utmost clarity. Just when they both need a kip.

We touched on a few of the `what ifs`. The` money side` of things. And the thorniest of prickly issues, the topic of `personal care`, and his growing dependence. Conclusions? None reached. We have no crystal ball, no private fortune, and very few answers, but we resolved to both make calls and talk again in a few days.

Soon after that, Dad woke up--just as I needed to leave for my London bound train on the first leg of my journey home. There`s usually one ray of sunshine amidst the murk and gloom of a day watching your rapidly declining Dad. Last time it had been his sudden and accurate recital of a passage of Masefield, after I`d mentioned my trip to the beach. This time, I`d tried to stir his love of sport with talk of the Olympics: the build up; who we`d be watching.


So I dug a bit deeper, to how he`d loved watching my sister and I running at school. I asked if he remembered what he used to call out to us.

"Run like hell, Jane, " he shouted out, his eyes alive,and sparkling, " and don`t wait for anyone!".

Not much, but word perfect, and enough to send me home with a smile. So the next day, during that lunch with my friend, we joked, then worried about those moments you`re told `everyone` has, during a busy life of juggling. You know..walking into a room and realising you have no idea why you`re there. Losing your keys and finding them some time the fridge.

What if there was a quick test we could take, we pondered, to see if we were likely to develop dementia, just like our dads? Would we take it? It would help us `plan ahead`, for sure, but would it also blight our lives?

Conclusion? Again--none reached, but the company was close and comforting and a distraction from a topic that we`d rather leave right there: in the back of our minds.

How about you? Given the chance of a definitive genetic test for dementia--would you take it? Would you relish the chance to make plans, and take the pressure off your family? Or would you prefer to keep your head in the sand? I`d love to know what you think. 

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