I have been married to my wife Ann for almost 56 years. Problems first started to appear when Ann had to take early retirement, some twenty years ago, from being a Midwifery Sister due to back problems which were beginning to affect her mobility.

Just over fifteen years ago, Ann had a serious heart episode that left her with atrial fibrillation, at that time controlled by medication. However, also around this time I noted some other changes relating to Ann’s memory and forgetfulness. In one instance, while out alone (as I was in hospital having an angiogram), Ann became completely disoriented and required help to return home.

Following this, Ann was later diagnosed as having vascular dementia and possibly a non-diagnosed stroke. Ann’s health continued to slowly deteriorate and following another heart episode, which resulted in another period of hospitalisation, Ann was fitted with a pacemaker to control the atrial fibrillation.

Just over three years ago, Ann had to have part of the large bowel removed (colostomy) and now must use a pouch for her faeces, which I also help to manage. Due to this, there are some dietary requirements which are also not helped as Ann has also been diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Ann was considered a vulnerable person and was shielding. Just before the pandemic began, she had been hospitalised with pneumonia, so it was a very difficult time for us all, particularly when the hospital were asking me questions you never want to hear.

Lockdown affected me in other ways too as I used to do the shopping twice a week and then needed to self-isolate with Ann.

The Covid-19 situation also meant that there was no day care or respite care available. I find coping with a person with dementia can be both trying and tiring.

I also had trouble obtaining Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – namely gloves for use when changing Ann’s stoma pouch however, with the help of Carer Support Dorset (who contacted Dorset Council on my behalf) I was supplied with free PPE on a regular basis, which was a massive help.

What’s been happening recently

Recently, Ann’s dementia has deteriorated, as expected. Ann now also has arthritis in both hips which has seriously impacted her mobility. This is coupled with deterioration in both her eyesight and hearing which makes things a little more difficult at times.

I too am suffering from eye problems, although I’m due to go into hospital soon for a consultant appointment and I may have to have an operation soon.

After two years with no break, Ann is due to go into respite care for a week. This time away will not only allow me to attend my hospital appointment but will give me some time to sort through things like our freezers, catch up with the washing as well as relaxing by watching some TV.

I manage to get out and about to do the shopping twice a week again now – and I also do some shopping for a neighbour when I’m there. However, it’s tricky as Ann doesn’t like me to leave her alone so I’ve resorted to telling “white lies” to explain to her what I’m doing.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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