Wendy says, “I was a young nurse of 19, and my nursing friend asked if I would like to go on a blind date with an army chap, to an army event? And before the event we would go on a first date to meet each other. I wasn’t sure.”
“On the first date, the car turned up, and an absolutely dashing man got out and opened the door for me to get in. I was besotted from that moment on, so much so that throughout the meal I hardly said a word, I couldn’t speak! During the evening my friend said, ‘you don’t like him much, do you?’ and I said, ‘I love him!’. He dropped me off home, and I went indoors and flew back on the sofa and said to my mother ’I’m going to marry that man’.”
“Luckily, he did get back in touch and we went to the lady’s evening event, I was in a white dress, and he was all in his mess kit, which was pretty gorgeous. We had a whirlwind romance and within 8 months were engaged, married, and Richard and I moved to Dover in our first home, and were together for over 50 years. I was very lucky, ours was a wonderful relationship.”
They have 2 very supportive daughters, Pippa and Sarah and their families, including grandchildren which keeps Wendy busy when they visit.
“9 years before Richard died, we knew something was wrong but didn't know what was wrong. He was a very intelligent man and so when he did the dementia test, he came out with flying colours.”
“The doctors said we think it might be vascular dementia and then changed their mind, and a few years down the line they thought it was Parkinson's but then the Parkinson specialist noted that Richard’s mobility was extremely poor - he could walk across the room no problem, but if he’s standing still, he’d fall backwards! 4 years before he died, he was finally diagnosed with progressive super nuclear palsy, PSP.”
“Richard loved to soak in a bath, he just loved it, and so we came to Sage House to use what is possibly the best bath I've ever seen in my life. We were shown how to use the bar hoisting so we could do it ourselves which is absolutely wonderful. I would put him in the bath put the jacuzzi on with the wonderful skylight above and he'd lie back and look up at that, thoroughly enjoying it, and I'd sit and read my book and it was like a special little time in the bathroom together.”
“Then we’d come out and go into the café, have a lovely meal and a little chitty chatter away. Jacquie, our Wayfinder would come over, and as soon as she walked over a great big smile would appear on Richard’s face as he adored Jacquie, and she'd say to us are we OK? and if we weren't she’d help us with all of our problems.”
“That to Richard was wonderful, because he arrived here looking a bit scruffy and left all smart just as he liked it.”
“The Grief Café for me was extremely helpful, and it helped me to be honest with myself, and not to feel guilty about my grief. The Grief Café’ allowed us to get together in a room with others in a similar position and you could say what you wanted. There were a couple of things that I said that I didn’t know I had in my head, and it helped me to understand what was actually going on in my head. Sometimes after your partner has died you try to bury it and it’s not necessarily healthy to do that.”
My friendship with Susan really blossomed from sharing time and discussing our memories and experiences at the Grief Café.
“After our spouses died, and we felt strong enough, we have all come back to Sage House as volunteers to try and help other people. Sage House has always been there for us and which I do have to say is the only place I know where people are there for you after, which is actually really hard for us.”
“I bring Daisy the dog, as Pets as Therapy. Daisy helps people get talking, often about their pets. There’s someone who repeats a story about a puppy at the bottom of their bed when they were a child. Seeing Daisy and telling the story always makes them very happy and that is what volunteering with Pets as Therapy is all about. And there’s a lady who used to breed black poodles, which is a time of her life she loves talking about and you can tell she is a natural with Daisy. It always brings a big smile to her face.”
“I met a chap when I was volunteering for Sage House at Goodwood, he was about 40 and his father had only just been diagnosed with dementia but is quite far on, he said there's no problem with my dad because he's in a nice little world of his own, it’s my mum that’s struggling and he'd not heard of Sage House or Wayfinders so he wrote it down, he asked me to spell the word Wayfinder, because he really wants his mum to have some help on how to cope with her husband, his dad.”
“Without Sage House we would’ve just gone home, and we would have been lost.”
We rely on your generous donations to keep providing essential support for families like Wendy and Richard, through their dementia journey and beyond. From 28th November to 12th December 2023, all donations will be DOUBLED in our Christmas Double Up Appeal, giving your gift DOUBLE the impact on people living with dementia in our community. Please click here to help us wrap support around carers and their loved ones this Christmas.