“When my father was 85, he met a woman called Dorothy and moved from the east to the south coast to be with her.”
Dorothy started to show extreme signs of Alzheimer’s within a year of them moving in together, which resulted in her being moved to an Alzheimer’s hospital. Midway through her illness, John started to notice the warning signs with his dad too.
“I started to notice that he was changing; things in the house were different, his memory was starting to go and the kitchen and bathroom were not as clean as they used to be. It seemed that as Dorothy got worse, so did my dad.”
As John already had experience in caring for his aunt with Dementia, the warning signs prompted him to take action straight away and he organised Power of Attorney, whilst his dad still had the mental capacity to grant it.
"I learnt from looking after my aunt that I needed to organise Power of Attorney as soon as I could. If you don't organise Power of Attorney, the only option is to seek a Deputy position from the Court of Protection. The court has control but gives you authority to act in the best interests of your relative. Power of Attorney has none of the limitations that the court can impose on a Deputy."
Dad’s Doctor had noticed his decline and referred his case to Social Services.
"Social Services were a massive help, my dad had his own nurse coming every week, helpers would visit without asking and charities would assist him with the shopping. They would take dad to see Dorothy whenever they could – it was really good for him."
After two years living in the Alzheimer’s hospice, Dorothy sadly passed away of pneumonia.
“Dad couldn’t accept that his partner had died, as far as he was concerned, she’d walked out on him. With everything that had hapened and having Alzheimer’s, he was finding it really hard to cope.”
John would talk to his dad every day and made the long journey from the Midlands to the South coast once a week.
"It was impossible to look after him from a distance, he would often get lost, waste money on scams and couldn't do any practical things like shopping. He had his driving licence withdrawn and I had to remove his car, as he could not take the decision on board."
It was at this point that John decided to move his dad closer to where he lived. He sold his dad’s house in Bournemouth and found a flat for him in Solihull, 5 minutes down the road.
“Knowing my dad better than anyone, my gut instinct told me that it was the wrong decision putting him into sheltered housing, but the medics and everyone else said it’s his last shot, so give him a chance - so I did.”
John found himself under a lot more pressure after the move.
"Even though I would now see my dad everyday, he would ring me around 20 times. Within five minutes of me leaving him my wife would tell me that he’d already been on the phone twice. His personality also changed, he was becoming really aggressive both physically and verbally to me, although thankfully not to his neighbours."
After 9 months in sheltered housing John took the decision to move his father into an Alzheimer’s home, which turned out for the best.
"Delaying the decision had been the worst thing to do; dad’s much happier now he’s in a home. It took 6 months to get the medication right but it would have been impossible if he had remained in sheltered housing. I am so pleased that he is with people that understand what is going on. It's now a pleasure to visit him and he is always happy to see me."
John advises other carers that whilst you shouldn’t turn your back on your loved ones, it’s important that you don’t forget to look after yourself.
"When I was looking at various Alzheimer’s homes, I was telling one of the carers about my father. She said, “he’s had his life, he has no right to have yours as well!” I needed to hear that, as I’d spent so much time caring, worrying and not sleeping, that I really had no life of my own."