'Everything else in your life has to give' - the reality of caring for a loved one with dementia

Bristol women who have cared for their loved ones with dementia share their story with ITV News West Country.

People in Bristol who have cared for their loved ones with dementia have described the emotional toll it has taken on them and their families.

Dementia is a condition that affects one in two people in the UK, and has been described as a 'ticking time bomb' for the healthcare system - with nearly one million people across the country currently living with it.

Annie Somerville's mother had the condition for 10 years and she remembers her mum showing signs of "aggression", in the early stages.

"My dad, he was quite unwell at the time, she was horrible to him," Annie told ITV News.

"One time she turned around to me with a look of hatred and said: 'You're a liar, you've always been a liar'.

Annie Somerville's mother lived with dementia for 10 years.

"I don't think we ever got used to the fact that that wasn't her. You have to keep thinking, 'it isn't her'. But it is, and it hurts," she added.

Annie's mother was a nurse in the NHS for 50 years and Annie remembers her saying she never wanted to be put into a home.

However, the family felt they had no choice.

"I miss my mum terribly. I miss the mum that was," Annie said. "But I used to feel guilty because she'd have lucid moments and say 'where am I? I don't live here' and then she'd go off again."

"You just think, this isn't living is it?"

"We made it as good as we could and she never forgot our names, she never forgot us, which was lovely," Annie added.

Trish Hamilton-West's husband Nick was diagnosed with dementia ten years ago and now lives in a specialist residential facility.

Trish Hamilton-West's husband Nick was diagnosed with dementia ten years ago.

Reflecting on the early moments of realising her husband had become unwell, she said: "Often you have a little cliff, you fall down a cliff. There's a sudden and abrupt change.

"I was noticing it with driving. Nick was having a lot more difficulty lane-driving in Bristol, but as time went on he was showing signs of agitation and not always being sure where he was, saying 'I want to go home', when he was in the home we'd lived in for 30-odd years."

"He wasn't happy. He'd stopped being happy at home because he was agitated and felt restricted.

"You get very isolated, because apart from your very close supporters, all your other friendship circles have to go. Everything has to give, because you have to focused on your loved one."

Trish's husband Nick now lives in a specialist care facility.

"I'm pleased to say he's very settled and happy which is marvellous. It was a gut-wrenching decision but it was the best one for both of us," she said.

Rehana Findlay's parents both lived with dementia.

Rehana Findlay's parents both lived with dementia. She said she began noticing changes in her mother's behaviour around 10 years ago.

"Four years out of the 10 years I was managing my parents on my own.

"My father, he progressed very rapidly in the last three months of his life. Prior to that he was showing mood swings and irritability.

"It was quite difficult to manage both their behaviours - and we were noticing changes but he wasn't, and if he did, he didn't want us to know or talk about it.

"My mother's journey through dementia was quite rapid. As a person she became very different.

"In my father's Indian culture it was always seen as a mental health issue, and a lot of the community don't like to talk about dementia."

One Bristol charity hoping to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia is the Bristol Dementia Action Alliance.

The organisation was set up by Tony Hall after the death of his wife Barbara, who died in 2022 after being diagnosed with the condition.

Tony trains retailers on dementia-awareness to increase their understanding of the condition and helps to create safe spaces for people living with the condition to enjoy life.

More information on the charity can be found here.

Support and advice for those living with dementia or caring for those with the condition can be found here:

Bristol Dementia Action Alliance working towards enabling communities to become more dementia aware.

Alzheimer’s Society offers personalised information, support and advice. You can called them on 0333 150 3456.

Dementia UK offers advice and support to families who are living with dementia.

Alzheimer's Research UK carries out dementia research but also answers questions about dementia and dementia research. The charity's helpline is 0300 111 5 111 and can provide help and guidance.

Age UK has advice on a range of topics. It runs a free national helpline on 0800 055 6112.

The Carers Trust provides information and advice on its website for carers.

Carers UK is a national charity for carers, providing information and advice from benefits to practical support.