If one moment could sum up the gut-wrenching misery of it all, this was probably it. The time is about 11.30 on a grey November morning and my 90-year-old grandmother is hurtling along the A303 to Cornwall, frightened out of her skin.
Gwen Hyde, a widow and former psychiatric nurse who is adored by her family, has late-state dementia to the point where she struggles to string together a coherent sentence. Yet here she is, strapped into the middle of a wheelchair taxi with an unobstructed view of the lorries zooming towards her in the opposite lane.
It’s just as well she can’t see the dials on the taxi’s dashboard. The driver, who appears to have arrived bleary-eyed from a late night on another job, is paying scant attention to the 70mph speed limit. In fact, he looks liable to nod off any moment, and my aunt, who for years has diligently cared for and visited her mother as the Alzheimer’s has worsened, is forced to shake the man’s shoulder and ask him to slow down.
Dementia may have robbed Gwen of her words, but her wide eyes and grimace speak clearly enough: this is hell on earth.
Memories: Dan Hyde with his grandmother Gwen, now aged 90, a widow and former psychiatric nurse, long before she was struck down by Alzheimer’s
Why, you might ask, is someone of her advanced years and ill-health being put through such an ordeal in the middle of a pandemic?…