David Baddiel: How live-in carers help his father cope with a challenging form of dementia

David Baddiel: How live-in carers help his father cope with a challenging form of dementia


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But four years after TV viewers last saw Colin, while physically a little frailer, he’s still going – and swearing – strong. And his sons aren’t spared his foul-mouthed banter, because he tends to think they are his mates.

It is clearly a difficult situation at times, but one that more and more of us will face. One in 14 people aged over 65 in the UK, and one in six over 80, has dementia, and with the number of sufferers set to soar from the current 850,000 to more than two million by 2050, it’s an issue that is going to concern a lot more families.

So it is interesting, says Ivor, that what looked like a care problem has actually helped his father to thrive in familiar surroundings, rather than submit to a slow decline in a care home.

Colin’s plight made him an unlikely TV celebrity thanks to the Channel 4 programme, called The Trouble with Dad, which highlighted his bizarre, often hilarious interactions with David and Ivor. Viewers got a rare insight into the impact on Colin of Pick’s disease, a rare dementia that affects parts of the brain that control emotions, behaviour, personality and language.

On one occasion, sitting on the sofa at home beside stand-up star David, Colin turned to his son and mumbled through his beard: “He’s a f***ing idiot, a total t**.”

The abuse can continue for hours on end, but David and older brother Ivor managed to keep calm when others would have been tempted to walk out. Although David revealed how he could no longer take his children, Dolly and Ezra, to see their grandfather because of his swearing and inappropriate sexual comments.

“My dad is like a heckler – but one you can’t chuck out,” he admitted.

Since then, David, 57, hasbeen giving social media followers updates on his father’s health. Last December he told how his dad was rushed to hospital with an infection and in January he reported: “Good news. Colin Baddiel has been vaccinated. The bad news is whatever range of swear words he was probably saying to that poor nurse. Thanks to her, though, and to all brilliant care workers!”

Now Ivor wants people to know his father is “doing pretty well, all things considered”. He is currently in hospital with another infection but his family are hoping he will be back home soon.

“There has been some deterioration but he is better than we had hoped for and I think a lot of that is down to him being able to stay at home,” author and scriptwriter Ivor, 58, tells the Daily Express.

Colin’s illness first surfaced more than a decade ago but the family had faced a crisis in 2014 when his wife Sarah Fabian Baddiel, who was his main carer, died suddenly aged 75 after 54 years of marriage.

Sarah’s own life could have been made into a documentary.

She arrived in Britain as a baby in 1939 with her Jewish parents, Ernst and Otti, who had fled the Nazis and settled in Cambridge and later Dollis Hill, north-west London.

During the war, her father, who’d run a brick factory, was interned for 18 months on ofWight alien the Isle of Wight as an alien, a confinement that affected his entire life.

Sarah later worked as a dental receptionist and then sold children’s books. She met Welsh-born Colin at a dance in London in 1960. He worked as a research scientist for Unilever until he was made redundant and then sold Dinky toys at a market.

During their marriage, she had a long running affair with a golf memorabilia salesman, something Colin turned a blind eye to even when she left love letters scattered around the house, and amassed a large collection of golf souvenirs herself.

Two years after her death, David mined this rich seam of domestic mayhem for mM material for a one-man show called My Family, Not The Sitcom.

Divulging his mother’s torrid private life garnered plenty of laughs, but he also touched on the family’s pain at the loss of such a spirited and entertaining woman.

Ivor says: “After my mother’s death it was fairly horrendous. She was my father’s main carer and because of his dementia he was very confused.

fat de an “He would often ask where she was and we would have to keep saying she had died. He went into shock each time we said it, as though he was hearing it for the first time. “We were advised when he asked where she was to say she’s not here, which was not essentially a lie and spared him having to go into shock again.

“Our youngest brother Dan came over from New York and stayed with Dad for a few months, but he knew he would have to go back one day.We all felt at that time that it would be best if Dad went into a home.

“The three of us visited two homes and mentioned that Dad was quite challenging but they said they were used to that and we shouldn’t worry about it. Then they came around to his house and admitted that actually he was too difficult for them to look ld ltk after.A third home said they would only takehim if we paid for one additional carer to come in and look after him.”

Ivor continues: “He had been going to a day centre but they said they couldn’t have him any more. He was spitting and making comments, upsetting other residents, so we were really left with no choice. He would have to have live-in carers.”

The family were advised to speak to a care company and a plan was agreed.

“They have been looking after Dad at home for the last six and a half years. They give him 24-hour, round-the-clock care and it works very well. They’ve actually been fantastic.

“They do two or three-week shifts living in and we got a television for the spare room. We have two regular carers, Clive and Sandra, who have been brilliant. They know Dad so well, understand him and make life as good as it can be.”

“He’s 87 now and he has deteriorated a bit as that is the nature of his degenerative illness,” says Ivor, but he adds: “He is still Dad. He doesn’t recognise myself and David as his sons. He seems to think we’re friends.

“A few years ago he suddenly said, ‘I see Chelsea beat West Brom’. It was a great moment because it showed he was still picking up information. It was like, where the bloody hell did that come from? He has occasional lucid moments like that, which give us all a lift.

“There are times when he’ll say to the carer, ‘I want to go home now’ or, ‘I want to get in the car’. But we are pretty sure he knows he is still staying in his home and I think that makes it much better for him.

“It’s still very hard to know what is going on in his head. He had a birthday recently and we asked him how old he was and he said 35. If he has that image of himself in his head and he looks at us, then he won’t think we are his sons.

“We’ve had to move his bed downstairs and he has a hoist to get in and out of that. Someone comes in in the mornings and evenings to help with the hoist but at least Dad is able to sit in a chair.

“For us it’s a relief to know that he has managed to stay in his own home. Often you read that when people go into a care home they die within a year. I have no idea how Dad would have coped but I think it is better that he’s at home. When the Government looks at care provision I think they should consider how to help to make sure elderly people can stay in their own homes, like my father. It’s been a big deal and it is expensive, but for us it has been worth it.

“There’s been a gradual decline, but there is still a spark there.

“Having that close contact has also helped us as well. David was having a look at Dad’s medication the other day because we thought he was too sleepy. David suggested reducing one drug, and the doctor agreed, and he was a bit sparkier, a bit less sleepy.

“We all get on with the carers very well and can discuss anything with them and that helps as well, having good communication. There are many, many positives for looking after the elderly in their own homes.”

His sons take comfort, too, from the fact that Colin seems to get some pleasure from looking at old family pictures that decorate his home, including the black and white image taken of him and Sarah on their wedding day.

Now frail and weak, it could well be that images of happier days sustain him as he battles through life with help on hand whenever he needs it.

Live-in care has been key. The Baddiels swear by it.

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