Geoff and Pat
“Pat was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, but it took two years to get to this point.
We were married in 1967 and we have 3 sons. Pat looked after them and brought them up while I went to work (a lot). I had worked in the metals industry for over 40 years. We lived in Burford; Pat was a hairdresser and then worked in a high end dress shop. She was very well known and very sociable. It could take half an hour just to get to the bottom of Burford High Street, she knew so many people and had to stop and chat to them all - I didn’t go with her!
Pat gradually became more anxious and confused. Her friends were worried about her too, but she refused to go to the GP. When she finally went, she was referred to a clinical psychologist. I was asked to leave the room while the examination took place, something I’ve always regretted. The psychologist told Pat her diagnosis before I came back in the room, so I don’t know exactly what was said. Pat came home very confused and thought that she was going to die. It took a different, caring psychologist to come and visit us at home to find out what had happened. I took early retirement at 60 to look after her myself. There is very little support out there; if you are not a forceful character then you are lost. There is no pro-active support.
I carried on looking after Pat myself; she couldn’t be left on her own. I had the bolts taken off the doors and alarms put on, to warn me if she was trying to get out. She still managed it and would disappear so quickly. On one occasion I ended calling the police. It just so happened that they had received a call from a lady in a car who said that a lady standing on a Burford roundabout knocked on her car window. She had kindly taken her to the ‘Little Chef’, where I picked her up.
Pat is generally very loving, but also has a good punch, which sometimes comes out of the blue, when you least expect it.
After two years of looking after Pat (I was only able to leave her with a friend for a few hours here and there to run errands), my sons sat me down and told me that they thought it was too much to carry on alone.
Pat’s new Clinical Psychologist mentioned Vale House to me, but living in Burford I looked for somewhere closer to home. Sadly, it was bad timing or just too soon, as it proved to be a disaster. Pat thought she was in a hotel and became anxious all the time. She cried a lot and rocked a lot and eventually refused to eat.
She fell and ended up in a wheel chair. In December our doctor told me that she wouldn’t make it through to the end of January. I brought her home to nurse her myself, with help from carers who came in first thing in the morning and then again to put her to bed at night.
I revived her. Ten months later I came to see Tricia at Vale House. Tricia is an excellent head of home, she is friendly and reassuring, but most of all she kept her promise of finding Pat a place. She phoned me when a room became available and in October 2013, Pat came to live here permanently. I come every day. I’m not ready not to see her. I come to watch over her and be with her, even though she no longer knows me intellectually. It’s my turn to give something back to her for all the years she spent looking after me and raising our boys.
Our sons are unable to come very often and our grandchildren aged 12 and 16, who were once very close to Pat find it difficult. It is also such a pity that she never got to know her grandson aged 4 and grand daughter aged 2. She loved children and would have been delighted to play with them and treat them at the first opportunity. It is sad that they too will never know the nana who would love them dearly.
Vale House is a special place, there are no restrictions on
when I can visit and I am always made to feel welcome. The staff are very good
to me and it suits Pat because she is mobile and likes to walk.
Whilst chatting to the wife of a resident who was nearing the end of his life, listening to her affected me quite deeply. His wife mentioned it to Vicky, one of the nurses on duty. She sought me out for a chat, to make sure that I was okay. I would say that was above and beyond the call of duty. It was very kind and I’m grateful.