On 25th June 2003 Mike passed away, six years after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease; a then little known and little understood form of dementia. Over the course of those six years Mike's family would come to know that Lewy Body is one of the most vicious and debilitating forms of dementia there is. It shuts down each pathway in the brain, controlling every function of the body, one by one.
Mike soon needed around the clock care and help with the most basic of functions, which fell to his wife and sons. Lewy Body causes hallucinations and sleep disturbances meaning Mike would wake multiple times during the night confused and agitated. He would then require help getting out of bed to use the toilet. He was no longer the strong 6'4" naval officer that he had once been but his frame still weighed more than his wife could easily lift and support... there was no one else there to do the job. This was Jenny's duty every night over the course of several years, alleviated only when her sons were home from university and could take over when necessary.
Mike increasingly required supervision and help around the home; with dressing and undressing, washing, using the toilet and eventually feeding himself. When it was no longer physically possible for Jenny to care for him at home Mike was moved to a nursing home, where the illness rapidly took further hold. As the last of his functions began to shut down, the ability to swallow, to absorb nutrients, and eventually to breath, Mike died with his family around his bed.
Dr Mike Blyth, my father, was 63 years old when he died... 57 when he was diagnosed and several years younger when he began to show signs that there was something wrong. With no home support, my mother pushed herself to the limits both physically and mentally to care for her husband till shortly before his death. To watch someone you love slowly being taken away from you is a toll of every form of dementia, to then have to cope with the strain of caring for that person alone; the lack of sleep and the physical exertion, is comparable to a form of torture.
I'm not telling you this in a bid for sympathy for myself or my family but for the many, many people who are going through the same thing right now... today.
Dementia UK can provide fully trained and qualified Admiral Nurses to help carers and patients in their homes. Any relief from the daily pressure of being a carer is invaluable to anyone unfortunate enough to be in that situation.
Studies have shown that reading or hearing poetry can help dementia sufferers, by stimulating memories and imagination. As an actor looking to raise awareness, the idea for this project was born out of this research; to provide a resource where anyone can listen to all of Shakespeare's wonderful sonnets, read by a group of wonderful performers.
The project began as I worked on Florian Zeller's brilliant play "The Father", a play that boldly tackles the subject of dementia. The full company of that play, including Olivier Award winner Kenneth Cranham, have all nobly stepped in to record sonnets here. Further performers have volunteered their services and in time we will have recorded all 154. allthesonnets.co.uk will be a one stop shop for all of these great poems, all read by professional performers volunteering their services in support of Dementia UK. All we ask in return is that you make a donation of whatever you can afford to this vital charity, and help those who need support right now.
To learn more about the help Dementia UK provide please visit their site www.dementiauk.org
Please click "Donate" and help in any way you can.
Tom Michael Blyth (Founder - Sonnets V Dementia)