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In 2007, without telling her family, Joyce visited her GP because she was feeling depressed. She was assessed and referred to Tolworth Hospital, where she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking back, Ken now realises that Joyce had probably been experiencing memory issues for some time before her diagnosis, as he recalls her starting to write down once familiar telephone numbers. She often forgets words for things, as well as her children’s and grandchildren’s names and birthdays.
In 2009, Joyce stopped being able to carry out household chores and can no longer cook. She is still able to bathe and dress herself but Ken is aware that the time will come when she is unable to do so.
Ken says that Joyce’s condition has made him very depressed, especially knowing that her symptoms will get worse.
He has health problems himself and is worried about what would happen to Joyce if he wasn’t around to look after her. He contacted Social Services who told him that he seemed to be coping very well with the aid of his family but that if something were to happen to him, they would step in. They suggested that Ken contact Age Concern Kingston to access day service provision for Joyce.
Ken started bringing Joyce to Raleigh House day centre in May 2010, initially for one day a week, soon increasing it to two days. He hadn’t originally planned to join the centre himself but he was so impressed with the facilities and the opportunities to socialise that he decided to become a member too. It gives him a break from caring for his wife, knowing that she is being looked after in the same space should she need him. Ken enjoys the weekly discussion group, but can often be found in a quiet place at Raleigh, reading – he loves to read but is unable to do so at home.
Joyce loves music, and last year took part in a project with Kingston Sound Communities, which culminated in a public performance.
The couple and their two daughters also now regularly attend the Saturday Club, for people living with dementia and their carers. Ken says that coming to Raleigh House is the best thing he has ever done. He describes how, at home, Joyce will become frustrated, agitated and aggressive through boredom, but that when she attends the centre she is transformed – sociable, joining in the singing and dancing, and full of energy and life.