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The Wellins Family Story

Fiona has been caring for her mum Isabella since 2016 when her father sadly passed away. Isabella was hard working and active, so coping with elderly age, frailty, and living on her own, was very difficult. Fiona says: “Through her dementia, mum also kept thinking dad had left her, which was tough to cope with for both of us, as I didn’t know how to keep managing this situation.”

Isabella moved with her large family from Scotland to Bognor Regis in the early 1940s when her mum was aged 6years and has lived there since. Fiona’s dad was a professional jazz musician, often working in the classic haunts in London. Isabella had a very sociable life, always going to gigs with her husband and surrounded by a lively family.

When her father passed away Fiona took on the responsibility of managing her mum’s care and looked for support from wherever she could find it. The pandemic made it tough, and they struggled navigating their dementia journey, especially with Fiona living in London. Fiona moved in with her mum in March 2020 as the country went into lockdown and was able to work remotely but, had to take periods out of work from time to time to manage her mum’s changing level of care. Fiona explains that “whilst her mum was still spirited, Isabella would often forget she was in her own home, pack her bags in the middle of the night and come in to ask when they were going home.” She would often ask “why can’t I remember anything; will I get better” which was heartbreaking for me to hear. Isabella also had auditory hallucinations. One day when Fiona had to be in London for work Isabella went missing, she had walked out of the house alone. Fortunately, Isabella returned shortly after friends and the police had started the search for her, saying she had been to the hairdressers.

As Isabella’s dementia progressed, Fiona couldn’t leave her mum at home alone for even short periods, so she found a carer to help occasionally. The carer had previously worked for Dementia Support at Sage House and recommended our Wayfinding service, and both Fiona and her mum came to Sage House.

Fiona reflects: “The Wayfinders have been an absolute lifesaver.”

In their first visit to Sage House the Wayfinder spoke to both Fiona and Isabella, and then to them individually. It was at this point that Fiona was able to release all her emotions, worries, concerns, and stress.

Fiona reflects: “It’s that feeling that someone has given you permission to feel this way and to say it’s ok, we’re here, and we’re going to help guide you through this and the next steps.”

The Wayfinding team helped Fiona navigate the complexities of their situation and provided directions on support of caring for her mum, and herself.

A Wayfinder is linked to the family and stays with them as their main contact throughout their whole dementia journey. They keep in contact, in person, by phone, email, or by video.

Fiona reflects: “It’s just knowing I could pick up the phone and the Wayfinder would be available to talk something through.

Sometimes it’s just because I’m really upset, or it will be a question – what do you think about this? How do I approach that? They would talk it through and say this is what you can do. I just felt this huge relief. I’ve got someone on my side rather than just going round in circles….and not knowing what I’m doing.”

Sage House offered Fiona and Isabella a safe space, an opportunity to socialise, and meet other families.

“I would not, and I mean this hand on heart, I would not have got through the last 8 months without their support.”

Isabella loved talking and the Wayfinders had great conversations with her about her younger days. She hadn't sketched for years but latterly through the support and encouragement she was receiving started sketching again, which Fiona says “helped with her restlessness in the evenings.”

Sadly, Isabella has recently passed away, and we are immensely grateful to Fiona for her agreement to use her video and family story, and we send our heartfelt thoughts and wishes to her.


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