The Father - my dad had dementia

KATE BILLINGHAM is appearing in the play THE FATHER which is about a daughter coping with a dad with Alzheimer's disease. Kate's own father died with Alzheimer's. Here she says why it is so empowering watch the play.

I read the script for The Father back in May 2021. My Dad was hospitalised at that time whilst they tried to find out why he was in so much pain. He overcame bladder cancer in his mid-80s and was a regular sufferer of urinary tract infections which induced odd behaviour.

To cut a long story short, he walked into hospital using his stick and was able to communicate well, thereafter caught Covid in the ward, suffered with delirium due to an extended period in hospital and left being unable to walk or speak, and had to go into a nursing home.  He was finally diagnosed with Alzheimers around August that year and died in early December 2021.

Whilst experiences of dementia differ from person to person, there are many elements of Dad in André, things that make me smile, as well as the not so nice traits. Personally I have found rehearsals and the play therapeutic not upsetting. It has helped me understand more from Dad's perspective and appreciate how distressing it must be for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

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Above: Kate rehearsing with Ian Spiby who plays André.

I wish I had read the script, seen the play or watched the film before Dad's decline. Recognising certain behaviours might have helped with an earlier diagnosis. You can feel as though you're the only one going through such a difficult time with a loved one but it's surprising how many friends have experienced it too.

I appreciate the subject of the play is a difficult one, but thank you for coming to support this beautifully written piece of theatre. We can only hope to educate ourselves and also enjoy the humour in the play - it's not all doom and gloom!

This production is staged in memory of Kate’s dad, David Blundell and all those who have died with dementia.

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