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The right to care

There was once an old man who lived with his wife in a house by a river. He had dementia, but he was happy. He worked in his garden, fed the birds, told stories about his past and teased his grandchildren.

One day he was taken into hospital where he stayed for a month. Visiting hours were strict, and an outbreak of norovirus meant he was not allowed visitors for days. When his daughter came to collect him, he was skeletal, immobile, incontinent and inarticulate. She took him home and he lay in bed for nine months. Then he died.

That man was my father. But his story is that of thousands of people with dementia who are wrecked by their stay in hospital. Too late, we realised that if we had been with him, feeding him, talking to him, keeping him tethered to the world, he would not have declined so disastrously. It was not the fault of the overworked nurses; he needed the continual attention and intimate care they simply could not provide.

John’s Campaign, named for my father, calls for the carers of people with dementia

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