My wife Annie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in October 2019 at the age of 66. This followed a period of about 18 months when her mental health and behaviour in public was becoming increasingly difficult for me to manage. Annie would shout in shops at the cost of things and remove things from shops without paying. The police were involved in one incident in Ryton and we were asked to leave a shopping centre in Edinburgh by a security guard. Annie also suffers from severe psoriasis at times and this was particularly distressing for her in recent years - leading to frequent hospital visits and a variety of medications. Some of these helped but most didn't. The physical pain of psoriasis led to extreme mental stress for both Annie and me as a carer.

I raised my concerns about Annie's mental health and behaviour with a GP and requested a home visit so a doctor could assess her - Annie refused to see a doctor at the practice with me. It took me 6 months, and 4 GP's before one agreed to visit Annie at home. In less than a week, community nurses from Bensham Hospital were in contact with me - to make a home visit which I enabled. Annie continued to refuse to co-operate saying that "there is nothing wrong with me". Shortly after this visit a consultant psychiatrist made a home visit - to make an initial assessment of Annie. Again, Annie refused to co-operate with a suggested mental capacity assessment. I agreed to meet with the consultant at Bensham Hospital each week - in order to update her on Annie's condition and we discussed options. 

In June 2019 (roughly 14 months since Annie's mental health problems became noticeable) Annie started fainting at home every few weeks. One day she fainted at Sage Gateshead and paramedics had to be called. The cause of her fainting remains a mystery. It may have been the result of one of the medications she took for psoriasis. On Sept 5th she fainted at home near the top of the stairs while I was in the bathroom and broke her foot in three places. I made a 999 call and paramedics arrived 40 mins later. After a lot of persuading, I went with Annie in the ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. After a few hours she was discharged with a special boot to protect her foot and I booked a taxi. However, as we left hospital, Annie refused to wear the medical boot and refused to get a taxi due to the cost!  It would have taken 3 buses to get home and it was not practical. I took her back inside the A&E Dept and explained the situation. Annie was kept in hospital overnight. Next day I asked for a mental capacity assessment to be carried out - following the legal requirements. This was done the same day and I attended. It was agreed that Annie needed to be moved to a special mental health unit (Cragside Ward) at the QE Hospital for detailed assessment. Annie spent 6 months on Cragside and wanted to come home with me all the time - we did a few times and I managed to also take Annie to her mother’s to mark her mother's 97th birthday in January 2020. Before being discharged from Cragside in March 2020, Annie managed to get a black eye but no one seems to know how... she may even have walked into a door.  Nevertheless, the staff I met at Cragside were outstanding in their care for Annie. 

In February 2020, it was recommended that Annie's needs would best be met in a care home. I was given a list of homes in Gateshead - 7 of which could potentially meet her needs. I visited all 7 and after consideration, Annie moved to one of them in March this year. Again, I am very impressed at the quality of care she is receiving. It was a very worrying time in April when she got the Corona Virus. However, she showed no symptoms and after two weeks in quarantine, was clear of the virus. What a relief! Then LOCKDOWN and no visiting allowed! It's now 13 weeks since I last saw her but we do speak every few weeks on the phone and she sounds delighted to hear my voice. 

We "celebrated" our 39th wedding anniversary on the 6th June - I left flowers, a card and a bottle of non-alcoholic wine outside the care home. These items were taken to Annie and I spoke to her on the phone a few minutes later.......she vividly remembers getting married in Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire in 1981 and that we were married by a Canon Lovelady......Annie is full of joy when she says his name!  Hoping our 40th anniversary will be even better when lockdown ends.

Although I continue to feel utterly exhausted by the events of the last 18 months and the stress of the current lockdown, I know Annie is being extremely well carried for and that it would be too much for me at home. Although on my own, I have great support from a staff member at Gateshead Carer's, Northeast Counselling Service, from brothers and a sister who live in London and Cornwall. Above all, my religious faith continues to strengthen and support me during moments of despair. Annie and I continue on our journey together and our shared love will always be there whatever happens. I have so much to be thankful for.