We shared everything together.
Jean and John met through sport as teenagers and played together competitively until their children were born. In more than 60 years they made many happy memories through far-flung holidays and a shared passion for showing poodles, with Jean becoming an expert in clipping. John was a taxi-driver and Jean, with her bubbly and chatty personality, excelled in telesales.
Throughout their married life they both worked hard and shared everything, making dinner, doing the housework, and gardening together, up until 18 months ago. Now they’re all John’s jobs.
Our world changed through dementia.
John said: “I realised at an early stage there were changes in Jean’s personality, simple things like doing the crossword at breakfast together became more challenging, but Jean said nothing was wrong. Eventually we had a doctor’s appointment, followed by referrals. After many difficult months for them both, Jean received a positive Alzheimer’s dementia diagnosis”.
Since Jean’s dementia diagnosis in 2018 the couple had been coping together, but with the progression of Jean’s symptoms and their son moving away, life became more difficult. Jean follows John everywhere and worries when he’s out of sight. If he’s longer than 2 minutes, she’ll be there waiting and saying – ‘I didn’t know where you had gone’.
As John is the sole carer for Jean, they were feeling very isolated and felt no one was helping them. At one of the GP reviews, a social prescriber suggested to contact Sage House. Until then, they had kept quiet about Jean’s diagnosis not wanting other people to know. John contacted Sage House for support in August 2022 and arranged a visit.
Sage House supports them both.
At their first visit, they were anxious, and Jean was concerned she was going to be left on her own. It made her very negative and not interested. However, their Wayfinder, Judith, listened to their background and suggested participating in activities at Sage House and our Outreach groups which were local to them, to gain confidence and feel comfortable in the environments.
John reflected: “So, we went to the Monday Singing for the Soul, and it was the best thing that we ever did. It is uplifting, and Jean is non-stop singing and dancing, and the same at the Outreach.”
After a few months of going to groups and meeting people, John said: “Sage House is our lifeline now outside of our house. Routine is important. We go to Singing on Monday, Tuesday is Day Breaks for Jean, and I can do the jobs at our house, then Wednesdays and Thursdays at Sage House Outreach, and Friday Jean has her hair done. My biggest problem is keeping Jean occupied because boredom is a big thing with her.”
“Before Sage House, I felt so lonely, really lonely, but I don’t feel that anymore, it’s just one big family and that’s how we look at it now.”
“People know who we are, every time we go in you hear someone say here comes Jean and John, and that’s so nice.”
“You wouldn’t think Jean is the same person at Sage House, that’s the good thing that Sage House does for us. I wish I could bottle it and bring it home.”
Support for John as Jean’s carer.
John says: “The practical side of Jean’s dementia has never bothered me, but the emotional side has been a rollercoaster and I think I’m coping with it much better now than I was before Sage House because they have really taught me how. Before I thought I was doing the right thing, but really, it was antagonizing the situation.
“There's been difficult times and different stages but now we seem to be on an even keel and now very little upsets Jean. It’s a learning process. Jean has been so brilliant at looking after the house, so I continue to do that, I don’t mind as I know Jean would do the same for me in the same situation and I would hate for the standard to be dropped.”
John attends a male carer support group/session run by Sage House with carers who are in the same position as him and want to share, help and bounce off one another. John said: “It’s important to remember that it is not the person you may have known all your life, and you have to adapt to how they feel. I’ve learnt to be so tolerant which I wasn’t two years ago.
“I don't feel alone anymore, I know if I feel down, and I do sometimes, I can phone Judith, Angel, Ness (at Sage House). I don’t underestimate what those three have done for me.
“Taking Jean to Sage House, that’s also a social thing for me. When I get there and collect Jean, people come up and talk to me – so, as well as Jean having a lovely day in Day Breaks at Sage House, I have lovely chats. I don’t know what my life would have been like without Sage House – I mean that, I’m not just saying that.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Sage House and the people in it. It’s not just the ones closest to me, everyone just smiles. We do feel part of the family and the fact that Jean loves it there is very important”.
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