Theresa and Michael have been married for nearly 58 years and both are now 81. At the age of 13 Theresa contracted osteomyelitis in both legs which necessitated 11½ months in hospital and numerous operations. She had further spells in hospital until the age of 27, by which time she had achieved a university degree and married Michael. Although Theresa’s legs were never strong, the couple managed to live a normal family life with two children. Theresa also taught for 15 years in primary and middle schools.

In 2011, Theresa suffered a stroke, resulting from very high blood pressure, which affected her memory, especially of people’s names. Since that time Michael has been a full-time carer, taking responsibility for house and garden, meals, shopping, washing and ironing, medication and finance. Since she had the stroke her memory, cognitive powers, continence and mobility have all deteriorated. In January 2018, Theresa was diagnosed as having vascular dementia. She now spends most of her waking hours in her wheelchair and for the last two years has needed help transferring from her chair to bed or to the commode as she cannot stand unsupported even with a frame. She has periods when she is confused and has difficulty communicating.

Covid-19 lockdown – the effects on Michael and Theresa

In March 2020, when Theresa was suffering from her fourth urinary tract infection in five months, she refused to take her medication and it was decided that she should spend a week in respite care. During the week the Covid-19 lockdown began and twelve weeks later she is still in the care home. The care home staff and her family have serious doubts about Michael’s ability to care for her at home on his own, even with morning and evening carer visits. The situation has still to be resolved.

While Theresa has been in the care home she has been well looked after and has enjoyed more company than she used to see at home and she certainly didn’t experience the isolation that would have been her lot at home. Michael has discovered there are many more hours in the day when he is free to determine his own tasks. He has been able to spend more time gardening, more time to play the piano and organ and reading. He has taken 4 mile walks (something he has not achieved for years, if ever) and has written four short stories (something he has never attempted before or even considered trying in his 80+ years). The lockdown has prevented him from going any distance from home – indeed he has not been more than 12 miles from home for over two years.

When the lockdown is over and even if Theresa has to remain in the care home, as it is only 8 minutes’ walk from their home, Michael hopes he will be able to visit regularly and take Theresa for walks in her wheelchair. In other words, he looks forward to a different form of caring.