Anne first met Bob at a nightclub with her sister and they started courting. Bob was in the army, and he came to visit her when he was on leave in his combat uniform, which Anne loved. It was a whirlwind romance, and they got married a year later. Tragically, Bob passed away 52 years later from Alzheimer’s.
Anne can remember when she first had concerns something wasn’t right. They were looking to move house in West Sussex with their future plans mapped out. But just before they moved Anne started to notice his personality changing, things he said were just so out of character.
Bob, who previously had heart trouble and was anemic, had suffered from bowel cancer and then bladder cancer and had beaten them both. Now they thought they could look froward to a fulfilling retirement together. However, after some visits to the doctor and a scan, the doctor confirmed Bob had Alzheimer’s. Anne reflects: “oh that was it, the bottom fell out of my world.”
They brought their new home and moved in, but their planned future together of six months in the UK and six months in South of France had now changed.
Anne and Bob’s life was fun filled and busy with two children and three grandchildren and their hobbies. Anne remarks, “Bob never really worried about anything, he was always looking on the positive side the whole time. But it was really difficult. He was a carpenter, handyman, and a black belt 3rd Dan karate, followed by black belt 5th Dan in jujitsu. That was one of the real challenges with his dementia, it affected his memory, personality, and over time his speech and mobility – he continued to train while he was ill but very sadly realised he couldn't teach martial arts any more as his dementia progressed, which was a huge disappointment for him as that was his passion, and he liked to keep busy.”
They heard about a veteran’s coffee morning at Sage House, which they thought would be perfect to get out of the house and meet others. “I hadn’t heard of Sage House before, and the first impressions were brilliant; bright, clean, very smiley faces at reception and everyone saying hello.”
“I asked at reception if there was anyone I could talk to as I wasn't coping very well at that point. I was told about the Wayfinders. They said it’s someone with experience of supporting families living with dementia who will be your regular contact and guide you through your dementia journey.”
“I arranged an appointment with Jacquie, my Wayfinder. Jacquie was constantly on the phone supporting me and Bob, with advice, access to other services, and importantly emotional support. I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
Caring for someone living with dementia is challenging both mentally and physically, and as time went on, Anne needed some extra support. Sage House provided Bob with a safe and fulfilling environment with a day in Day Breaks and Anne could have some much-needed respite time.
Eventually Bob had to go into a nursing home to receive the level of care he needed. Jacquie continued supporting them. When Bob had to be sectioned, Anne said “I've never been so scared in all my life I had no idea about what being sectioned meant, I called Jacquie” who said, ‘this was the best thing for Bob they will look after him in the right place and give him the best care, it's the best for him and you.”
Bob was transferred to a new nursing home, where he was well cared for, and Anne could get to see him after the immense difficulties during Covid. “I started coming back to Sage House when Bob was in the home and Jacquie and I stayed in contact. As Bob’s health began to deteriorate, I sat with him for four days, holding his hand, and talking to him, and Jacquie said, ‘he knows you're there’. Then one time I leant over and kissed him and he kissed me back four times, I knew what he was saying, I said ‘I'll see you tomorrow’, but Bobby passed away early next morning before I would get to him, I knew that’s what he wanted.”
“One of the most important things to me is the staff smile at Sage House. You would walk in and people would say how's Bob and I'd say he's over there ask him and everyone would speak to him, and even now he's passed away, I walk in and I get, ‘Hi Anne how are you doing?’ Everybody talks and smiles and also if you're not having a good day, they get that too which is great.”
And the fact there's so much here, you've got Day Breaks, Wayfinding, Activities, Hairdressing, Massage and other therapies, the café, and Citizens Advice Bureau, you've got solicitors. It’s such a hard thing to do when you're living with someone with dementia, you've got to find a specific place, you’ve got to get to a their building, you've got to find a space to park your car, you've got to try and get in to the building, whereas you can come here to Sage House and it's easy, it's such a help it's all under one roof.”
“I now volunteer on a Wednesday morning, where I run the ‘Chatter Table’. It started with just two guys, and I've got now up to 14 people at the table, and it's not just chatting about dementia - we sit and chat and laugh and those with dementia are so relaxed they can chat and not worry either.”
Susan, Wendy and I have met some lovely people definitely, and we get it, we're all on the same journey, alright now we're starting a new part of our journey, but if we can help just a very small amount here in doing volunteer work it's worth it because you know Sage House was here for us and it's still here for us now.
“We all get on so well. And that's the thing you see, when your loved one is diagnosed with dementia you feel like you're on your own and you're not, when you come here you're not on your own, we're all in the same boat and that's the most important thing, you've got somewhere to go, someone to talk to, and you're not on your own and even a cup of tea at Daisy’s cafe it's brilliant.”
Anne reflects: “I would never have coped without Sage House absolutely not, it's so needed, dementia is not going to go away, not for a very long time.”
As a local charity, we rely on your donations to continue supporting families like Anne & Bob. During our Christmas Double Up Appeal, from 28th November to 12th December, all donations will be DOUBLED by match-funding. Please consider donating to help up wrap support round carers and their loved ones this Christmas.