Helen & John

Helen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia when she was 57. She is cared for at home by her husband John. Helen wishes to stay at home and support from a range of services helps to make this possible.

Helen’s story

I think I get a lot of support. When my mother was ill, she went to Fernlea House, a palliative care day respite service. They’re very patient, and so caring, and I know how well they looked after my mum. It’s just a beautiful place to go and I look forward to my visits.

I didn’t really know what was going on with me for a while. Getting lost can be scary, but now I just go with the flow. I think it’s hard for John. I just feel that home is where I want to be.

Animals give me joy. My little dog sits there patiently waiting for a pat. He always seems to be cheerful.

John’s story

Prior to Helen’s diagnosis there were changes in her capacity and behavior that suggested that something was wrong. Following the diagnosis, we needed to make both mental and practical adjustments.

I think palliative care must attract the sort of people with endless patience, because the staff at Fernlea House are absolutely magnificent. They’ve found that right balance between assistance and not being intrusive, and allow Helen to make decisions about things as they progress. Helen had a work associate and volunteer at Fernlea who died of cancer recently. The palliative care team was involved early enough to put in place her wishes for her final days, and for her funeral. It must be something in the character of the people involved. Knowing that Helen is really well looked after there is really important to me.

On Mondays Helen goes to a council run activity centre. Two days a week she is picked up by a volunteer and spends the day at Fernlea House. On Thursdays a carer comes here and gets Helen up and dressed. They watch videos, go for walks, and sometimes go shopping. Whilst Helen’s reasonably articulate, she can’t do anything for herself. She sometimes gets lost in the house. She can’t find her clothes or dress herself, and can’t find anything in the kitchen anymore, so she needs that assistance. She’s totally aware of what she can’t do, but she seems to be accepting of her illness.

We both like it here. Even though the place is not pristine and the horse is doing the mowing for us, Helen likes having the animals around and the dog makes her happy. We’ve tried to find Helen longer-term respite. It’s something we need to persevere with, but at the moment it just doesn’t work for Helen.

I’ve got to a point of acceptance, but on the way there have been emotional hurdles. It’s going to be a progressive thing. When we arrived here over thirty years ago, I did the fencing and Helen did all the planting. We’ll often sit out on the verandah, which is really restful. We have decided that Helen will stay at home for as long as possible. To enable this, we’ll increase the in-house services to assist Helen. We couldn’t do it without them.

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Helen

Helen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia when she was 57. She is cared for at home by her husband John. Helen wishes to stay at home and support from a range of services helps to make this possible.

Helen’s story

I think I get a lot of support. When...

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