When caring for those living with dementia, many factors need to be considered. This story explores how one couple overcame the challenges of the husband’s increasing forgetfulness and physical problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and with their family found solutions that could ensure their continued independence together in their own home.

David and Helen

David and Helen had lived north of Chester for as long as anyone in their family could remember. They went to different schools in their local area and met when teenagers in the early 1950s. Although destined to be together, it took several years of courting before Gemma accepted David’s marriage proposal!

They married when Helen was 27 and David was 30, had two children, Gemma and Nicholas, and stayed in the area all their lives. They had a good life, with the usual ups and downs of marriage, and both worked at the local engineering firm for years until retirement. There was their annual family holiday in Wales, and life was quite ordinary and happy — just as it should be.

Both children married and had families of their own. Gemma moved to and now lived in North Wales, while Nick lived not far from Mum and Dad in Chester.  Over the years, the family grew deep bonds until most of the grandchildren had grown up and gone to college or university.

In the blink of an eye. 

It’s incredible how time can pass so quickly. Before they knew it, Helen and David were celebrating 50 years of marriage, and their families were living their lives, working, and seeing their kids off to further education or jobs in bigger cities like Liverpool and Manchester. Life started to slow down.

When David turned 80, they celebrated his birthday in style at a local five-star hotel and restaurant, and it was a day to remember! They had an amazing three-course meal with the best crémant prosecco they could afford, and the cake was delicious and so big that everyone got to take several pieces home with them. This was a momentous time in David and Helen’s lives and one they’d never want to forget.

When the future is uncertain.

But as David approached his 83rd birthday, he found he was becoming very forgetful and clumsy – or instead, Helen kept telling him he was becoming so. Not with everything initially but trying to remember names and dates was becoming an increasing challenge. Even just remembering where the teabags were was very frustrating! David is a big, solid man, and Helen petite, so when David started becoming a lot more forgetful about the layout of the house, getting upstairs or negotiating the bathroom, it became a genuine concern. Every time David went to the bathroom or the kitchen, Helen was on his heels because his clumsiness kept getting the better of him.

David had tripped over the side of the bath a few times, and trying to get him off the ground was a nightmare. He hadn’t been badly hurt, mostly by pure luck, but he did end up bruised and with his confidence dented. The fact that Nick was just 10 minutes away was a godsend; otherwise, Helen wouldn’t have been able to get her husband off the bathroom floor. The thought of him falling and pulling her down with him was also a concern – especially for their children – who had begun to recognise that their parent’s house would not function at all if Helen was injured in any way.

After lots of discussion and persuading their parents that it was worth the cost, it was agreed that Gemma and David needed to renovate the bathroom so they could get in and out of a shower with relative ease. David could also sit on a specially made stool inside to relax while taking a shower, and secure handrails were added to ease walking in and out. No more baths. This meant there was nothing to trip over, and all Helen had to do was ensure the door was open and towels were in easy reach while David had his daily shower.

A (less than) safe haven.

Sadly, as time passed, David got worse and their routines were out of sync. Nick was around the house every other day sorting out another thing that had either been tripped over, misplaced, or broken by David’s forgetfulness of space and sometimes frustration at his inability to do the things he once took for granted. Helen was on tenterhooks most of the time because it was apparent David was becoming increasingly grumpy and, on occasion, aggressive just because he couldn’t do something or find things.

Mum Helen was becoming increasingly depressed and volatile every time she spoke to them about dad, and that her routine being shut down each day. So, Gemma and Nick agreed they would sit them down and talk it all through with them in much more detail and in a way that they would listen. They needed to talk about the practicalities of the house – did they need a stairlift for Dad? Could the kitchen be improved to ensure it was easy to walk into and find what they needed daily? How could they try to make mealtimes much easier? Would some visiting care help Dad shower more safely? And what about getting Helen out of the house and meeting friends occasionally, instead of the feeling of being trapped indoors?

Gemma returned to the family home for a fortnight, and between them, she and Nick made appointments for David to see their local GP and to visit the memory clinic at one of the local hospitals.  Finding out exactly what was happening to David and getting the right support for him, Helen and themselves was the first step in resolving their shared situation. The problem was exacerbated, however, because neither Dad or Mum would accept a lot of help, even though things were gradually becoming worse and more dangerous. Trying to get them to accept help was taking its toll on Gemma and Nick. It was incredibly frustrating!

Care Conversations

It took weeks of gentle cajoling and talking  – and some angry arguments – before Gemma and Nick got Mum and Dad to realise that unless they accepted help, things would get worse. More accidents would happen. Helen would get more depressed and stressed at ‘being tied to the house‘ in case David needed her. Ultimately, they had to paint a vivid picture of what might happen, which meant the possibility of dad going into care. The thought of that made them finally agree to look into what support they could receive.

David had moments of clarity and although he was still the man he had always been inside, he was getting weaker, and they didn’t know how it would all progress. With a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it was a frightening and heart-breaking time for all the family because the future was so uncertain. They started talking about different therapies that could be tried, and medication that had to be managed carefully. Still, it was when Nick spoke to the local nurse at their GP, with some information about Promedica24 – a local live-in care company – that Nick realised this was what he and Gemma had been talking about for Dad. Live-in care offered all the personal care and support David needed. It would mean a professional carer was with him when required – and the Mum could go out-and-about, meet friends, do shopping etc., without the worry that David was alone at home, and potentially in danger or trouble. Nick knew what kind of care his parents needed, but he didn’t know live-in care existed until this point.

Again, it took a little time and gentle persuasion, but Helen accepted that live-in care would keep David safe at home and ease the care burden on her shoulders – and allow Gemma and Nick to relax too. They called in the local Care Consultant from Promedica24 and chatted over how the care would work and what it would mean for David and Helen. Helen was bothered that a stranger would be living in her home, but came to understand that the carer “would be there when needed” whilst discreetly living in Nick’s old bedroom when the family needed privacy.  With each carer living with them for a several weeks at a time, they would get to know and trust them, and that they would become a part of their lives, keeping David at home, where they all agreed he wanted to remain.

Care in place.

Arranging live-in care for David was straightforward. Once the paperwork was completed, a carer was matched to the family and introduced a few days later. David now had all the care he needed, and Helen was freed from the daily grind of looking after her husband. She was now a wife again, not carer-in-chief. For David, whenever he needed a shower or a shave, someone was there on hand to support him physically, and to help him get dressed afterwards. David was stubborn, but in time, he started to trust and rely on the help and once again enjoyed getting ready for the day and being involved with some of the times they had before his diagnosis started to take hold.

By having live-in care, David relaxed in time. If he couldn’t find something, he was shown or guided, labels were made to make it easier, and their live-in carer showed a huge amount of compassion as well as being someone David could chat to and listen to music with. Mealtimes became easier, too, as it meant Helen could organise shopping and take time to make meals. They could both enjoy life much more like they used to.

David could go out and about with his carer, while Helen caught up with friends during the week. When Nick visited, it was much more about spending quality time with Mum and Dad. Gemma didn’t have to worry so much about them either, and visiting their old family home was a loving and warm experience rather than fraught and worrying.

When caring for those living with dementia, It isn’t entirely clear what the future holds. For David, having the proper emotional and physical support, living at home is much easier and more comforting for him, Helen, and everyone else in their lives.

Caring for those living with dementia – next steps.

Live in care comes in all shapes and sizes to suit anyone who shares this story. If you’d also like to chat to someone about how you – or someone you love – could benefit from support and live-in care, we invite you to get in touch to have an informal talk.