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In 2012, when Geoff was diagnosed with vascular dementia, his wife Terry had already noticed tell-tale signs that his memory was failing him.
As Geoff’s dependency on her increased, Terry needed a little bit of space and spoke to her GP, who recommended they look at day services nearby. Having viewed several centres she discovered Raleigh House in New Malden, and immediately knew it was the place for them:
‘We really like it here, it’s so friendly. Everyone’s very kind.’
Geoff started attending the day centre once a week, giving Terry some much-needed time to herself to see family and spend time in her beloved garden.
This is really important to the couple as it means they can maintain their independence. ‘As long as I’m fit and able we’ll carry on the way we are,’ said Terry, ‘Not every day is the same, not every morning is the same, so we don’t need someone coming into our house to help. But if there wasn’t somewhere for Geoff to come we would have to reconsider.’
The couple also joined the Saturday Club and have become familiar faces at the monthly lunch, meeting up with other people affected by dementia. This has meant a lot to Terry in particular:
‘It’s so nice because I meet up with the other carers and we can talk, and you find that things aren’t so bad after all!’
In her eighties Terry is still a remarkably active woman, full of laughter and energy. She and her husband have always been energetic and outgoing, and Terry admits to missing the theatre and gallery visits they used to enjoy together. They have both adapted – Terry volunteers every week at the RHS gardens at Wisley, whilst Geoff particularly enjoys the activity and exercise sessions provided at Raleigh by arts group Bounce Theatre. However, having now cared for Geoff for almost five years she is noticing his condition develop. ‘He’s completely dependent on me now. He can’t find his way around the house. For example, he’ll come out of the bathroom and then say, ‘I’m just going to go to the loo.’
Geoff now attends the day centre twice a week and the centre manager stays in close touch with Terry, letting her know if they notice anything unusual or if they can help.
Married for over 60 years, Terry and Geoff continue to enjoy life together but things are getting harder, especially recently as his memory deteriorates more rapidly. ‘He knows things are getting worse and it’s putting more of a burden on me, it’s horrid for him.’
Most important for Terry and Geoff is having a positive attitude and making sure things work for them. Geoff said: ‘Whatever happens you’ve got to try and not get depressed. We’ve all been there, it’s no surprise, but it can be hard to get out of these depressions.’
The services they have received from Staywell have helped help this devoted couple adjust to their situation.
‘I have a wonderful time,’ says Geoff: ‘The staff are so lovely and obliging. And so long as I get a good cup of tea I’m happy! If only everyone was as lucky as we are it would be a good world to be in.’
Dementia refers to a collection of symptoms characterised by a progressive loss of cognitive abilities affecting reasoning, communication and the ability to carry out the routine activities of daily living. It is not just a normal part of ageing, but is likely to affect one in six people over the age of 80. As Geoff and Terry’s story shows, careful advice and the right support can provide reassurance to families and enable people to adapt their lifestyles to accommodate the changes that are taking place and live well with dementia.