'Those awful memories will never leave me' Daughter's heartache of not being able to see her father in care home before he died

Sharon Calvert with her dad, Geoffrey.Sharon Calvert with her dad, Geoffrey.
Sharon Calvert with her dad, Geoffrey.
A Wakefield woman, who lost her father to dementia, says the heartache of not being able to visit him in person at his care home will never leave her.

Like many people during the height of the pandemic, Sharon Calvert was forced to ‘visit’ her father through a window at his care home due to restrictions imposed to control the spread of Covid-19.

Sharon said: “I was banging on the window and he just didn’t understand what was going on. I know I’m not the only person who went through this heartache, but it felt like it at the time. Those awful memories will never leave me.”

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Sharon’s father Geoffrey Bennett passed away in November, aged 82, and now she is determined to support others living with dementia by taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk at Castle Howard, York, on Sunday, October 3.

The 56-year-old, together with husband Chris, 55, and their six-month-old Jack Russell Willow, will join hundreds of walkers at the event, which had to be cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

Sharon said: “My dad was only diagnosed with dementia in 2018, but he had the condition for a lot longer than that. We actually think it began before my mum died, and that was 11 years ago.

“I looked after dad for 10 years and saw him slowly decline, but things really took a turn for the worse when he was diagnosed with pneumonia last year.

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“He was allowed home after hospital treatment but unfortunately it flared up again and after the second time he never came home. He went from the hospital to a care home and his condition deteriorated rapidly.

“He had been a very independent-minded person and lived in a big house in Kirkhamgate, so to go from that to a small room in a care home at a time when visits were restricted was hard for him to come to terms with.

“I miss dad every day. It’s less than a year since we lost him so it’s still raw and I have good days and bad, but I wanted to take part in Memory Walk to support other families affected by dementia. I know dad would be proud of me for taking part.”

The stunning 6.5km Castle Howard route will take walkers around the grounds, where they can take in the Temple of the Four Winds and the Mausoleum as well as its parkland, farmland and forested landscape.

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During the walk, they will have a view of the house and formal gardens, which have featured in film and TV through the decades, from Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited, to Arctic Monkeys music videos.

People affected by dementia, worst hit by coronavirus, face a difficult road to recovery due to a lack of social contact, routine and interruptions to essential care and support. Alzheimer’s Society’s crucial work has never been needed more.

Leah Bull, Community Fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We are in awe of our incredible fundraisers who will be turning out in their hundreds to support the estimated 76,000 people living with dementia in Yorkshire and Humber.

“It’s always so uplifting and moving to see so many people come together to honour or remember their loved ones.

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“The pandemic has been catastrophic for people with dementia, with Alzheimer’s Society’s services, like our Dementia Connect support line, used over six million times since lockdown began in March 2020.

“Every pound raised from the Castle Howard walk will help Alzheimer’s Society provide information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia.”

Visit memorywalk.org.uk to find out more about the remaining Memory Walk events or to organise your own Memory Walk at a location and time of your choosing.

Anyone wishing to support Sharon can do so by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sharon-calvert6