Our cookies

We use cookies, which are small text files, to improve your experience on our website.
You can allow or reject non essential cookies or manage them individually.

Reject allAllow all

More options  •  Cookie policy

Our cookies

Allow all

We use cookies, which are small text files, to improve your experience on our website. You can allow all or manage them individually.

You can find out more on our cookie page at any time.

EssentialThese cookies are needed for essential functions such as logging in and making payments. Standard cookies can’t be switched off and they don’t store any of your information.
AnalyticsThese cookies help us collect information such as how many people are using our site or which pages are popular to help us improve customer experience. Switching off these cookies will reduce our ability to gather information to improve the experience.
FunctionalThese cookies are related to features that make your experience better. They enable basic functions such as social media sharing. Switching off these cookies will mean that areas of our website can’t work properly.
AdvertisingThese cookies help us to learn what you’re interested in so we can show you relevant adverts on other websites and track the effectiveness of our advertising.

Save preferences


What does Black History Month mean to Rochelle Raheem?

In Black History Month, Rochelle Raheem, an unpaid carer from Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, reflects on and recognises the sacrifices and contributions black people have made to the world and culture in the UK.

She commented: “It Is a reminder to be unapologetically black. Also, it is a time for me to reflect and to recognise the journey my family and ancestors have gone through. It is a reminder to use my voice loudly to stand up address and call out ignorance.  To love and to respect myself and to teach my children to do the same.”

For Rochelle, the situation now for black people in the UK has been amplified and improved after George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“In the last few years, we have been given a platform to rise up, to speak freely without feeling we are going to upset or offend someone because you are standing up for what you believe in. Suddenly people are more willing to listen. It  feels like I can say, ‘that’s not appropriate,’ when something is wrong.

“More people now have a better understanding of what life is like for black people. More people are willing to get feedback to comments which may come from a lack of understanding. There has been an amazing empowerment and I am in a stronger position.”

Rochelle, who has two children aged one and four, has cared for her dad Ossie since he was diagnosed with Mixed Type Dementia, in February 2020, just as the pandemic started.

She describes her father as a true teacher and a passionate, self-motivated and self-taught musician and dancer. Ossie has been in the UK since he was aged 12 when he came to join his parents and siblings from Grenada where he had been brought up by his grandmother.

Rochelle explains that Ossie found the adjustment period very hard and was really overwhelmed by what he describes as the “grey buildings”, the cold weather and the strange food. She says he cried for months, pining after his grandmother and the life he had in Grenada. After some time, Ossie began to enjoy school and went on to do an engineering apprenticeship where he bought home many items he was proud of, including a ring for his mother. His happiest times came later though when as a self-taught guitarist and percussionist, he toured Europe with the very successful ‘Mahana’ jazz, funk and soul band and spent time teaching salsa, which he excelled at. “There are great stories of the band touring the Canary Islands.”

After the band broke up, he became a brilliant driving instructor and life was good for at least 30 years. It continued until the symptoms for his dementia started to appear, about seven years before the diagnosis.

She said: “You do not want to believe the signs. My dad is a quiet, private person who does not give much information so it was not always easy to know how he was feeling or to see the signs. I think he was working very hard and for a long time to hide his confusion or forgetfulness and I would think, well, I repeat stories too – he’s just tired or stressed.”

Gradually though the symptoms got much worse to the point when he was getting some complaints about his work; going to driving lessons at the wrong time; arriving at the wrong house; missing appointments and getting in a real muddle over things like passwords.

Finally, Rochelle took him to be assessed, and her dad was diagnosed. On exactly the same day as the diagnosis, he lost his job as he could no longer drive so could no longer teach. He had also split up with his girlfriend of over ten years just a month before. Then the pandemic forced him into isolation, which was a truly terrible time for him.

“He is an incredibly social person and it was awful not to be able to get out.

“He became paranoid and had terrible hallucinations and delusions. He thought people were in his house, and it was all made much worse because I could not be with him. I went through a period of serious self-condemnation because I followed the rules and stayed at home but in retrospect, I couldn’t believe that had I stayed away from my dad after he had been given a diagnosis of dementia.“

Fortunately, Dad was able to receive some support from Bedford council who gave him a care package to eventually include three visits a day in which the carers would help him cook and encourage him to eat, prompt him to wash and administer his medication. But most importantly, just be a friendly face and give him some company.

“Interestingly, in Bedford both my father’s mental health nurse and social worker were black, so we were able to have some cultural understanding at the time of his diagnosis,

“They understood his cultural behaviours, values and norms so were able to communicate things he would understand. They knew how to engage with him.  Acknowledging his background, They could really make him laugh by talking about ‘back home.’ This helped to build rapport and to build  understanding very quickly. So that was pretty good.”

“But services at the time in Bedford were limited because of the pandemic and some of the activities on offer were not in line with her dad’s character or culture.

“For example, although he is 63, he is incredibly young for his age. He is pretty gorgeous. He is young and fit and active. He does not need chair aerobics as he can do full aerobics. Plus, he would not connect with some types of music played in Music for Memory groups.”

Things have largely evened out in the last eighteen months and Rochelle is able to report some very helpful support from Northamptonshire Carers since she moved her father from Bedford closer to her in Higham Ferrers.  

“I found out from Northamptonshire Carers about one of their dementia help groups. I went to the first session when I was put in touch with their Memory Hub Leader at the end of June/July 2022. 

“I have never had such great support before. I really believe in them. The Northamptonshire carers actively pursued contact with me. Their Memory hub is a fantastic group. They go out of their away to make feel people welcome and they keep up with everything your loved one is going through. The sessions are varied and they are open to ideas. Dad really loves the physical activities they do. It is so nice for carers to be around during those times as well. They are committed to working with the huge community of black and brown people in their patch.”

Rochelle thinks it is unfair that she has been unable to claim Carers Allowance since Ossie moved into the care home because she is  still doing everything for him. “I still have a big job to care for my dad”, she says.

Rochelle has now organised for private independent carers to give her Dad what he needs. She makes sure that her dad is regularly accompanied on trips to keep him fit and active and to Caribbean restaurants where he can enjoy the food and music he loves and reminds him of home. Gradually she is creating a care package for Ossie which he can enjoy and which is appropriate to his culture and background.

“So many activities do not represent black people. They really need to be amended. Organisations offering services for black carers/ those black people in need of care need to connect with local Black and minority ethnic community groups and use social media for example to reach out to those who are being missed. And services need to be more aligned with their ethnic, cultural, religious values and preferences. Music and food for example are huge cultural connectors.

“It is important to give people the connections they need, to make them feel they are in an ambiance which will make you feel at home, particularly if someone has dementia.”



Related news