Following on from our article about Keystone that helps carers and cared for with Dementia, we spoke to two of the carers that use the service about their experiences.
Michael Stone, 81 and Ronald Savage, 94 attend the Keystone meetings and both have wives suffering with dementia. They speak out about the support they received from Keystone in their time of need. Ron is pictured on the right and Mike on the left of the photo.
Mike - “My wife is in residential care in Southport since May last year. She had been diagnosed with dementia 18 months previously and suffered a rapid decline in her health within that time. I first heard about Keystone through Ron and started coming along to the carers meetings. When I made the decision to look into residential care for my wife I was at breaking point really. I was that physically and emotionally drained that I knew I would have gone under if it had carried on much longer. I have now reached a stage where my wife is comfortable and is being well cared for even though she won’t recognise me and that I’m her husband.
Keystone has allowed me to meet and talk to other people who are going through this. They were great at the beginning in setting out basic rules about how to cope and how to talk to someone with dementia. Not to worry about having to tell a white lie in order to save upsetting or agitating the person when they will only forget about it anyway. It’s this practical advice on how to handle situations that has been so valuable to me.
Suddenly you find yourself alone. You have to start living another life. I cried my eyes out when the time came for my wife to go into residential care. The GP recommended that I try counselling but no, I couldn’t stand it. It doesn’t work for everyone. It is a very emotional upheaval, almost like a bereavement. I am so glad for the support of Keystone.
There is an enormous number of families that have someone suffering from dementia. Groups like Keystone are so important in encouraging us to talk about it and recognise it. The sheer scale of this dementia ‘epidemic’ I want to call it as we are all living longer is like an avalanche that is coming toward us. On a national level, the government isn’t doing anything about it so thank God for the support that we can get here.
For anyone who finds themselves in this position. I would say that it is important to ask for help and support the earlier the better. How much support you need will depend on the individual situation but a good starting point is to talk to your GP and go from there. Don’t feel guilty about needing time for yourself. There is no shame in talking it through and asking for help. There used to be a stigma about putting people ‘in a home’ but in many cases, residential care is the best option for both the dementia sufferer and the carer. There is no disgrace in this at all. For the carer, there is still a continuing life to lead. It’s difficult and places such as Keystone provide that social and emotional support as well as practical advice.”
Ron - “My wife Joan is 92 this year; she has been suffering from dementia for about 5 years and has been in residential care since July 2015. I have been coming to Keystone since it opened and my wife was still at home with me. I am the oldest and eldest standing member! I was somewhat lost after Joan was diagnosed. I found myself feeling bewildered and quite lonely. I do feel guilty at times. I question whether I have done enough for my wife. Coming here regularly has been my solace. It is a place full of love and fun. I think it’s rather wonderful to have a place where we can talk our problems over. The comradery is like coming to a home from home, a lovely happy family.”