Jean from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire was married to Derek for over 30 years. Sadly in 2011 Derek was diagnosed with dementia and Jean’s difficult struggle to care for him began until he died in 2018.
Thankfully she had Rachel Korosi, at her side, her Admiral Nurse who Jean says had been a complete ‘life saver’ and without her there is no way she could have coped.
“We met at ICI – Derek was a maintenance engineer and my boss! He took early retirement at 55 and became one of the first house husbands, when our son Jonathon was only 7, and I worked full-time.
“Derek was bubbly, the life and soul of the party with a dry sense of humour – a real northern man. He loved golf and all sports. So when he started withdrawing socially and had difficulty playing golf it was a real shock. I noticed other things; he’d been such a good driver but started to lose confidence.
“Derek began to have memory problems in 2008 and in 2011 was finally diagnosed with mixed dementia – Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Often he would put an act on in front of others, but as soon as they’d gone he would withdraw into a shell. One of the hardest things was that other people didn’t understand.
“I could deal with the incontinence, but the grief and loss you go through as you lose their personality, and they turn into someone you don’t recognise, is unbearable. Derek became violent, particularly around personal care and I couldn’t shave or shower him for days at times.
“I heard about Admiral Nurses in 2011 and Rachel had been there whenever I needed her. I can’t imagine having gone through it all without having an Admiral Nurse – there is absolutely no way I would have managed without her. Rachel was on the end of the phone at all times offering her experience, knowledge , good advice and the correct balance of emotional support and guidance.
“Rachel made me aware of all the options and took away the guilt I felt. When I needed respite care Rachel made the arrangements and when it was obvious that Derek was best looked after in a care home and should stay, Rachel sorted everything out for me.
“I met fellow Volunteer Ambassador, Maureen, through a neighbour who knew we were going through the same experience with our husbands. We met for a coffee and a special friendship started. Our husbands were even in the same care home. Even now, we still talk about what we’re going through, it’s really important. So many people are embarrassed about dementia that it can at times be hard to talk to your friends.
“I’ve been part of a carers’ forum where we do lots of lovely activities together. The support we get from each other is enormous. Christmas can be difficult. A few years ago, one of the women, whose husband had died the year before, came and she cried, she couldn’t stop herself. But, by the end of the evening she left laughing!”
“Rachel allowed me to laugh as well and to appreciate the good times with Derek. It’s just wonderful that the Admiral Nurses service has been set up. It is one of the only services that actually look after the carer.”