Former Post Office manager, Mick Webster and his wife Jenny from Ipswich have been going to Sue Ryder’s Dementia Synergy Café
every Tuesday for the past year.
Mick was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 63 after a gradual deterioration of his memory and hand tremors prompted him to see his GP. Initially diagnosed with depression, Mick met with a number of specialists before he was given a firm diagnosis of Lewy Bodies Dementia. He is now retired after work became increasingly difficult as his condition worsened.
Coping with diagnosis
Mick is cared for at home full time by his wife of over 30 years, Jenny. They have two grown up children who live close by.
Mick said: “When I was diagnosed with dementia I was given a load of leaflets and left wondering, what am I going to do now? It’s a difficult diagnosis to have because I don’t look any different so people don’t understand when I’m slower to say something or can’t do something. There didn’t seem to be anywhere to go where I could be me so I stayed at home a lot. It was easier.”
Mick used to enjoy reading, doing cross-words, swimming, painting, drawing and making model boats. He can no longer do any of these things. Communicating is getting harder for Mick too.
“I try to do all the things I used to do, and it’s frustrating when I can’t. It feels like my brain is slowly shutting down, which is affecting my short-term memory and physical abilities. Talking is getting more difficult now too. I can visualise words but can’t get them out. Often people give up waiting for me to speak and finish my sentences.”
Supporting Mick to remain as independent as possible is his wife Jenny, daughter Emma and son Adam. Jenny said: “From the moment I wake up till the moment I go to sleep at night, my role as a full time carer is to make sure Mick is safe and looked after. Learning how to best care for Mick is constantly challenging as his cognitive and physical abilities are progressively deteriorating. It can be lonely too as people not in contact with dementia have little understanding of what and how the condition affects life – not just for the person who has been diagnosed but the whole family’.
“All the family help as much as possible. Adam’s son, Charlie, takes his granddad’s hand when out to make sure he doesn’t wander off, which is really sweet to watch.’
“Dementia has changed our relationship but by being honest and open with each other – and seeing the humour in things – we’re as close as ever.”
Vital source of support
In March 2011 Jenny and Mick visited Sue Ryder’s Dementia Synergy Café for the first time after other local services for people living with dementia closed due to funding issues.
Jenny said: “Without the Synergy Café there would be nowhere else to go to get support. The Café is a great place to meet people and talk honestly about what living with dementia is really like. We share day to day problems as well as practical solutions to overcome them. We all learn from each others’ experiences. We’ve met lots of lovely people who we have become good friends with. And, the staff are very helpful finding out things for us if we’re not sure about anything.
“It is a safe place where I can relax and am understood” said Mick, who added with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, “We have fun doing quizzes and playing bowls, darts and other activities while the ‘carers’ are in their corner discussing things… about us!”
Asked what the future holds for them both, Jenny quietly said: “The future is uncertain. We live day by day as we don’t know how Mick’s dementia will progress. For the moment though we’re happy and getting on with living our lives.”