Trevor has cared for his wife Linda for over 20 years. He shares some of their life together, and what caring has been like for him.
The first time I held her hand I felt a bond I’d not known before and with no other since.
We were married at Christ Church, New Malden by the Rev. Peter Coombs on 20th September 1969 and this September we’ll have been together for 54 years. I remember that day as just yesterday and can hardly believe so many years have passed since.
Life for that new Mr. and Mrs. was not all a bed of roses and we had our share of ills. A nasty flu at our first Christmas saw us laid up, but my girl got up to make our Christmas lunch which comprised an enormous turkey which would feed a family for days. It had been supplied by a farmer, the best man at our wedding, who had been very generous as it only just got into the oven. In addition to her ballet dancing past, my girl could cook very well, and we never went hungry. Those early years were challenging as we had very little money and could not afford to socialize much, but we got by.
I suppose that just ‘getting by’ is the English philosophy of life and that Mr.Micawber’s advice for financial happiness is quite sound. Staying within budget and not borrowing from the future is something that young people should follow today. It might be thought old fashioned, but is as valid now as it’s always been. It is for this reason I did not have a credit card as I considered debt to be anathema. Years later I did get a credit card which made it easier to pay hotel bills, but by then the pressure on finances had eased. I always paid the debt off every month before being charged the enormous interest.
Our son was born in Epsom hospital in 1975 and some days later I drove him and my girl home, but so anxiously that I barely exceeded 20 mph. All that night I hardly slept, but checked on our baby boy often in his cot. Not unknown to new parents I believe. My girl coped with her new son very well and she protected and cared for him as no other; perhaps a little too much; but nobody would complain about that. Of course, and just like his mother, he was very good looking, and a few years later, people would stare at him as he toddled by.
My girl always looked her best and I was very happy to be with her as nobody looked at me when she was by my side. She would sometimes pick me up from work in our car and it amused me to witness the number of young men who glanced at her while she was busy reading a paper. She took no notice and was probably oblivious to their attentions. I confess to being flattered a little when envied by others, but my girl is responsible for that.
We continued on our way, but in 1997 she lost her father, then her younger sister, the following year, to oesophageal cancer. That was a very hard time for her especially as she did so much, trying to save her younger sister’s life.
Not feeling herself
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was about that time when she seemed not to be her usual self. My girl had always been a little awkward at times, but not like this. I put this down to the recent loss of some of her close family, but it was not to improve; it became gradually worse instead. Then the most difficult time when as she slowly withdrew from normality I had to fill the gaps she had left in cooking and shopping which had been abandoned. Trying to do household chores while still holding down a full time job was a most testing time and I often went to bed in the small hours totally exhausted and that was for every day of the year and including Christmas Day.
Our Phillip, while still at home, suffered greatly as he watched his mother fade, the caring mum he’d known and loved slipping away before him. The damage this caused is difficult to imagine. Despite many consultations with doctors nothing was discovered until a few years ago when dementia was eventually diagnosed. Then the deterioration, which had been gradual, developed rapidly until the Spring of 2022 when her situation had progressed to when it had become impossible to cope with.
I had avoided advice to search for a Care Home preferring to look after my girl myself, but a District Nurse brought matters to a head when she said I could not go on like this and she phoned our GP and Social Services, in my presence, announcing it as an emergency. I thought to be doing my best for her, but apparently not.
I managed to get my girl into a Nursing Home on 1st July last year. I was fearful that she would not settle, but had no need to worry as the staff at the Home are kind and handle the residents carefully and are very considerate. She is now groomed, well fed and clothed as she was always and looks 20 years younger. She continues to dance around in the Home remembering the ballet steps of long ago. Yes, some things are not forgotten.
I now visit twice a week, at least, and she is always pleased to see me as we hug and kiss hello. I usually have some items for her comfort, and a favourite treat.
She is physically in A1 condition, but her mind is fading and makes little sense. Many folks are unaware of just how awful this condition is, largely due to sufferers not going out much and remaining behind closed doors. I plan to face the future together as we have always. I will not abandon her in this moment of difficulty, but want to make her life as easy and happy as possible.
Thoughts for others
All un-paid carers, when presented with a loved one’s dementia, should be resilient, responsible and empathetic, but sadness for the fading person should not be expressed for that’s of no practical use; remain positive at all times and don’t expect too much. Everyone has problems to face some of which are tragic, but accept the reality, keep faith and march on.
The best time, during my visits, is when we sit together laughing and just holding hands just as we did on that first date 56 years ago. I think this a treat for us both and who knows, perhaps she remembers.
The picture shows Trevor’s wife, Linda, and son Phillip on holiday in Austria in 1986.