Edna and I were together 55 years; courted for 3 years and married 52 years. My wife did everything around the home from cooking to decorating. With a Mensa score of 147 Edna was in the top two percent intelligence rating in the UK.
In 2010 she started doing things which at the time struck me as strange and insignificant, but would go on to rob her of herself. Her spatial judgement started to diminish, and over the next three years things got progressively worse until 2013 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Throughout the diagnosis, testing and getting the medications right, the doctors were wonderful with her. My wife also received wonderful care at the Memory Clinic, they were so considerate and compassionate. The doctors would ring regularly to see how we were getting on. I felt my wife was being looked
after and I was supported.
Over the following year things got steadily worse. I was determined to give Edna the best possible shot and decided that I was going to care for her for as long as possible.
We got the most fantastic help from social services, they were second to none. They arranged for Annette to come every week and take Edna out in the car. They would go for a trip and have a meal somewhere, it worked absolutely perfectly. It also gave me some respite as well.
I had a very good team surrounding us. I knew my wife so well, and I knew that due to the Alzheimer’s routine was important. I created a tight team of carers – including my son and his family. It all worked incredibly well until 2017 when it got bad; really bad. I had reached a point where I just couldn’t cope – even with the help and support I was receiving. I had terrible feelings of guilt and self-recrimination as I knew I could no longer care for my wife. Social Services arranged for Edna to go into day
care, which turned into residency. She was happy there, and I was thankful of the care they provided.
It was while Edna was in the residential home that she became very unwell. She had a number of tests, and it was found that she had a punctured bowel. It was a terrible shock. Due to Edna being so frail operating was not an option. I had to come to terms with Edna receiving palliative care rather than treatment. It was difficult but it was the right decision for Edna.
The staff were very considerate of my feelings. They discussed everything with me and my son. Everyone was kept informed of the palliative care Edna was receiving, there were no problems or misunderstandings at all. I think she knew that things were not right. Despite the Alzheimer’s there was an understanding and she had started to give up. It was difficult, but I took great comfort through those very tough times of her last days, listening to the nurses talking to her.
I could hear them calling her ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’, taking great care with her and being gentle with words of encouragement ‘come on sweetheart’, ‘let me help you love’. The way they spoke displayed immense kindness.
Edna’s dignity was always respected. It was lovely to see her wearing a ladies floral nightie, rather than the traditional hospital ‘gown’. This simple act reassured me that they were seeing the person, not the Alzheimer’s.
When it comes to the end, you realise there is only going to be one outcome. And even though you are prepared, when it happens, it is still a huge shock. I have taken comfort from the fact that we did the best we could do for Edna, and feel deeply fortunate that we had the very best people around us to help.
My wife was a fantastic lady. She had a very sharp brain, brilliant in fact, and it was not easy to watch that slip away, such a waste at 74. However, the tender care my wife and I received during her time at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital was absolutely superb. I watched the nurses and doctors at work and realised it is not just a job to them; it is a vocation. Not everybody can do it, but they can and they were magnificent.