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Heather’s story

Heather shares her experience of attending a Closer to Home clinic with Admiral Nurse Debi.

Together with our corporate partner Leeds Building Society, we launched our face-to-face Closer to Home dementia clinics in January 2023. Taking place in Leeds Building Society branches, the clinics offer families a free, confidential appointment with a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse in a location close to them.

Heather shares her experience of attending a Closer to Home clinic with Admiral Nurse Debi.

I could finally take a deep breath

I first noticed that Mum was acting out of character around 10 years ago. She used to go to church every week and was always helping out in her local community. All of a sudden, she started being rude to people. The GP at the time said it was because of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Mum deteriorated again over lockdown, and she was eventually diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2021. She was living in Scotland at the time so she had to move to Leeds so that I could care for her. I had suspected that Mum had dementia, but it still felt like a huge shock for both of us.

I called the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline for support after Mum’s diagnosis as I was struggling to transfer her medical records from Scotland to England. There was so much paperwork to sort through – it was a nightmare. The nurse gave me some great practical advice and signposted me to other helpful services. I felt like I could finally take a deep breath.

Husband and wife cutting wedding cake

The Closer to Home email came at the perfect time

Mum had a seizure at the beginning of January 2023 and was in hospital for eight weeks. She really deteriorated during this time, and I didn’t feel like the hospital staff were listening to me. They kept moving Mum to different wards in the middle of the night which was really disorientating for her.

I signed up for Dementia UK’s emails, which were so valuable. When you’re caring for someone with dementia you don’t have the time to look through lots of information.

It was around this time that I received an email about the Closer to Home clinics. The email came at the perfect time, and I decided to book an appointment with an Admiral Nurse at my local Leeds Building Society.

Debi made me feel safe

I felt embarrassed when I first sat down with Admiral Nurse Debi because I was crying. She reassured me that it was okay to be upset and she made me feel safe. She was the perfect balance between friendly and professional.

I told Debi about the issues I was having with the hospital. She was able to give me tailored advice, telling me that I needed to put everything in writing and send a letter to the hospital with all my concerns. She told me exactly what to include in the letter and who I needed to address it to.

The hospital helped so much more after I sent the letter. I realised that I could get people to listen; I just needed to do it in a different way. Any time I had an issue, I would think to myself, ”What would Debi do?” It made a huge difference to the care Mum received whilst she was in hospital.

Knowing the Helpline is there is a comfort

Debi’s advice meant that I was able to bring Mum home so that I could continue caring for her. She wants lots of hugs and cuddles and I love her more now than I ever have. I’ve been able to see a different side of Mum now that’s she lost her inhibitions. She is much softer and I think it’s important to dispel the myth that everyone with dementia becomes aggressive.
Mum is at the end of her life now, but knowing the Helpline is there when I need it is such a comfort, especially now I know that people like Debi are on the other end of the phone.

Daughter standing smiling and waving behind her elderly mother who is wheelchair bound smiling and holding her daughter's hand whilst sitting in the foreground

Debi saved my life that day

I nearly cancelled my Closer to Home appointment because I felt so overwhelmed. But I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen Debi. She saved both my life and my Mum’s life that day. Debi had more of an impact on me than anybody else ever has before. She really listened to what I was saying and picked up on what I wasn’t saying. Debi read between the lines and understood our unique situation.

If you’re thinking about booking a Closer to Home appointment or calling the Helpline, I would say just do it. Whether you’re a husband, wife, daughter, son or a friend, Admiral Nurses are there for anyone affected by dementia.