New project for older people in Smethwick is making a difference

A much-needed break is vitally important for the relatives of people with dementia. 

That’s the view of Pam, who says that even with a very supportive family, it can be difficult to enjoy time on her own.

Pam, aged 69, has been caring for her husband, Terry, for the past three years. As his illness has progressed, she says it has become increasingly difficult for him to cope with the simplest of things on a day to day basis.

When Terry was referred to Agewell by Smethwick Medical Centre, Community Pathfinder Michael Sutton went to meet Pam first to learn more about Terry. Michael says: “I know that for people with dementia, first impressions last. So, I was keen to know about Terry’s interests so I could engage with him as soon as I met him.

“I wanted to give Pam the chance to go out but she was nervous to leave Terry initially so we took small steps. On the first visit, Pam just popped out for half an hour, but now she can go out for a couple of hours while I talk to Terry.

“He knows he’s in a safe environment with me. Often we look through the boxes of treasures he’s collected from his metal detecting.”

Pam says that having Michael come in to talk to Terry for an hour or two enables her to pop round to her sister’s or simply to have a walk round or go up to the local café.

“I don’t think people really understand what it’s like to care for someone 24/7,” she explains. “I can’t take my eyes off him. Being able to get out on my own and just switch off for an hour or two is incredibly helpful.”

Pam says she is lucky that her grown up son and daughter are able to help out on a regular basis, but that both her and Terry also really appreciate Michael’s visits.

She says: “Terry was a very outdoorsy person. He liked fishing and metal detecting and he kept racing pigeons, so he always has plenty to talk about.

“It’s good for him to have another man to talk to. Michael shows a real interest in Terry’s life and engages with him on a one to one level which Terry seems to enjoy. He’s also helped us with some practical things around the house such as equipment for the bathroom.

“The help offered by Agewell has made subtle but important changes that make my life as a carer just that little bit easier. From my point of view, if I know Terry is happy and being looked after, I can finally relax.”