With Christmas around the corner, it is always worth remembering why we all do this job – this story of a family affected by Dementia is a great reminder. For more stories like this visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/.
If you have a question about dementia or need some support, call the Alzheimer’s Society helpline – 0333 150 3456 to speak with our expert advisers, or join Dementia Talking Point to chat with other people in your situation.
Since moving to London from Guyana in the 60s, Beverly ‘Kim’ Jones has looked after others. She raised four children, cooked for her community and cared for her mother in her final years. Kim is now living with dementia but, as her daughter Shontell explains, she is still at her happiest when helping other people.
Mum was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1957. Her proper name is Beverly, but from a young age, she was nicknamed Kim – and that’s what almost everyone calls her.
She adores Guyana. Every second year, she would take us children there for six months at a time. This was at a time, when schools were relaxed at children being taken out of school.
Her roots are very important to her.
Head of the family
My grandfather had moved to the UK – as many West Indians did in the 1950s and 60s.
When Kim was nine years old, he brought her over to live in London with two of her younger brothers. She loved it. Her mum – our nan – made clothes for a living, and Kim would help look after her brothers.
The clothes industry must have rubbed off on Kim. As a young woman, she worked as a dresser for catwalk models, with a fashion company called Frank Usher.
But her real passion was as a homemaker. She had four children – me, my youngest sister Natasha, and my brothers Paul and Tony.
Kim was always very much the matriarch of the family. She was no-nonsense, but she was well known in the community for her cooking. There was always food available. If there was a party or a celebration, she’d cook a curry and her famous roti!
Even today, when I meet people from my childhood, they remember our mum.
She was the type of woman, who when you were young, you were a bit scared of, but as an adult, you realise that she was usually right.
Gradually, all us children moved out to begin our own lives and start our own families. But Kim’s caring responsibilities hadn’t finished. Her mum – our nan – had a stroke in 2007. Kim began to support and look after her. Nan’s mobility worsened over the years. She was bed bound for most of her illness, which lasted 10 years.
All through that time, Kim looked after her – until she couldn’t any more.
In 2015, we began to notice things weren’t right with Kim. She started to lose things like her Oyster card or her keys. At one point it felt like we were ordering new bank cards once a month.
Natasha and I took Kim to the GP and then a memory Clinic. They said they couldn’t find anything wrong.
It was emotionally very tough for all of us. We knew Nan still needed caring for. But now we needed to care for Mum as well.
But we as a family knew something was not right. Her memory was a fraction of what it usually was.
The family were all in different bits of London. How could it work? That’s when my sister Natasha really came into her own.
Natasha adored Kim. Kim was her everything – like a best friend.
So Natasha arranged for both Nan and Kim to move in beside her, and look after both of them, while at the same time looking after two young children and hold a relationship together. It took immense physical and emotional strength. Sadly, Nan passed away in 2017.
Getting a diagnosis
Last year, a visit to a neurology clinic meant that Kim was at last given a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive impairment.
It was stating the obvious to Kim and us, her family. Mum was the Gallivanting Queen – she was always going somewhere. And she always knew how to get there. Now, her confidence about going different places has been badly dented. She can get anxious quite easily.
Kim gets frustrated with her condition. “It stops me from being me,” she says.
Happy to help
Now, she loves going to the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation (HCEO). She goes there every day and is in her element. It’s because she gets to help others.
“Although I have my own problem, in dementia, I have this thing about helping others,” says Kim.
As the eldest of three siblings, Kim was always the responsible one. She brought up four children of her own. She cared for her mum, Now, she helps other people at the HCEO, who, like her have dementia, or are frail.
That is what makes her happy. Being able to give and care for others.