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Our grip on life can be tenuous, yet we forge through our allotted span, seldom for a moment sparing a thought for how close we are to ‘going off the rails’.  Many souls have a tortured path at some time in their life span ..and it can be debilitating, painful and lonely.

I write as an 86 year old, who has gone through life physically  and relatively unscathed.  Yet I have scars that I would not wish on my worst enemies.   I saw my Mother who endured nearly 19 years of depression that ended with her taking her own life, when I was 38 years old.  My younger son who spent 20 years serving in the RAAF,  shot himself on my daughters farm, when I was 68.

These are the mileposts in life’s path that ‘scar’, that never completely heal. These are sombre reminders of a time when our emotions can be pushed to near breaking point. 

Recently I read this here on patriotrealm:

“I have a friend who told me about an acquaintance whose wife suffers from dementia. It is true that he also suffers from dementia. Not that he has it but he SUFFERS from it. Make no mistake – when a loved one has dementia, EVERYONE AROUND THEM SUFFERS FROM DEMENTIA.”

Late in 2008, I passed another milestone in the passage of life, that I did not see.  My wife who was nearing 80 asked me what our address was.  I told her, then passed the remark to a friend who was visiting. “that’s odd, we have only lived here for 24 years“.

Today up until early June, I have honoured the vow I made when I married her ... to look after her.

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Over the years in between, I have had advice from many of ‘what I should do’,  and a mountain of advice of well meaning people.

The day came when I was drawn to ring triple zero, when I was faced with a case of delirium, that I had not witnessed before.  It was frightening and posed an envisaged threat to both of us.  My wife was whisked away to a local hospital, where she was duly placed in a ward for the Acute Elderly.

Most of the elderly in there suffered dementia at various stages. 

This, although I did not see it coming at first, was to became a battlefield, where the ‘mental health of the carer ', was to become the lynch pin to my wife’s discharge .

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Firstly I was approached  by what are called ‘Social Workers’,  that gave way to prattle about plans , read as ‘we deem’, that found in me a husband who just wanted his wife home.  This confrontation became the caveat for a ‘conference meeting ‘, that included three social workers, a ward doctor,  the head geratic doctor, a stenographer, my son in Blenheim, NZ and my wife’s son in Hobart.  Three of these needed my sanction to join. 

It was obvious to me that I was the subject of very careful psychoanalysing.  You see this meeting was not about my wife, but was about the ‘stress’ that looking after a dementia patient incurs.  Don’t get me wrong, living with dementia can be stressful. As I am well aware. 

The comments by all of the ‘Social Workers’, I saw as robots saying what was required to substantiate their roles.  This was another case of officialdom pushing aside the individual, with the role model of protocols to be followed.

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Enter the head geriatrician to who was the only one I could place any confidence in. He may well of thought that I opposed him at every turn, but what he was saying was a reality, that candidly I did not want to hear. 

My son and stepson then joined the discussion  and basically agreed with what was being channelled as the end result.  The meeting ended with me being  forced to agree to a plan to submit my wife to ‘respite’ care initially and then perhaps agree to permanent residential care.   It may be argued that my resistance was more ‘obstinacy’, but as I explained that ‘all were on the outside looking in’, whereas ‘I was on the inside looking out’. The geriatrician said “ It is impossible for you to look after your wife. You are doing the work of three shifts’.  I then asked if I were to use my Power of Attorney, to move to have my wife discharged, would he as the charge doctor over-ride that power.  The answer was blunt ...”If I had to I would, but I would not want to.’

This signalled to me that I could be viewed as unreasonable and a danger to my wife. I told him that I was offended and where were they all in the ten years I had looked after her? 


In the days that followed each time I visited my wife in hospital I was approached by the Social Worker with ‘progress’.  Each time a ‘respite’ place was found’, that was the other-side of town.  I rejected them ...but they kept on trying, until they found one not far from our home.  But as things happened, whilst there was availability, they could not accommodate my wife as they were not taking in a new patient. So back to square one.  However I called on the ‘respite home’ and pleaded my case to administration, they sent their assessor to the hospital and within days she was admitted, much I suspect to the hospital’s relief.

The centre that my wife went to was impeccable, thorough, helpful  and to me was a relief from the autocratic manner of the hospital.  Much was made from the senior staff of the stress that looking after a dementia patient impacted on the carer, but I found the constant stress, paperwork and bureaucratic autocracy was a harder road to walk. 

I have no doubt that statistically the rules they adhere to are born out, but each case is different.

I am no martyr, nor the criminal I was made to feel at the ‘conference’,  but I look at people like Dan Andrews and Paul de Jersey  ...and realise that the average man in the street is only another pawn in the chess board of life.

 In the five weeks, I learnt a lot, but none more than looking after the person that you love, with all the love you can muster.  It is a tough call, but I would not have it any other way.  


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