20/02/13 Alec Gilroy and his greyhounds.

“You going far?” An older man on an even older looking bike, towing two greyhounds, called over to me with an Irish twang.

The people in these here parts are friendly – they wave, they smile, they flash their lights and, if they get the chance, they stop and chat.

I told him about the walk – he told me about his wife – “I’m still amazed there’s nothing they can do for dementia…'”

My mind raced back to my social work days – there was a medication that slowed the progress – Aricept- gave some relief….but there was that horrible sense of inevitability – you lose the person twice-

Once, as you watch them gradually lose their mind – as they forget everything and everyone around them.

Their families so often in denial, “She can remember things from years ago…” …but she can’t remember getting married…

And then twice, when their body finally succumbs to the disease leaving sadness and often feelings of guilt from those around them – those people who gradually became their carers – the same people who accept death with a sense of relief.

I thought about the battles with junior doctors who were keen to tell me that my client was blocking a bed – and did I know how much the bed cost per night. Over my time working in an Edinburgh hospital I found out how much a bed on every ward cost – so I was able to give a prompt and accurate answer – I suspect that wasn’t what they were looking for…

Then I remembered the generous offer given by George Osbourne that nobody would pay more than £75 thousand for their long term care…

Not including what they call ‘Hotel costs’ – food, heating, laundry, electricity and the like.

Being me, I’ve explored the average life expectancy of someone moving into a care home – reports I found suggested anywhere between 6 months and 2 years…

Not looking quite so generous now – especially given the mysterious rise I saw in hotel costs when free personal care in scotland was announced.

Then I thought about NHS continuing care – if a person is deemed to have a medical condition that requires significant input from medical staff then they are entitled to free personal care – this includes some dementias.

60 thousand is the number of people awaiting an assessment for free personal care in England and Wales.

I remember the battles I had with the powers that be in the early days of community care – some won, some lost – but each time it felt I was reinventing the wheel…

Then I remembered a couple if clients – the mother of a GP – he’d given her a notebook to act as her short term memory as soon as she’d been diagnosed…and it was working…

The man who was the sole carer for his wife who repeatedly told me he was coping…a chance meeting with him in the street caught him by surprise and he told me he wasn’t…
We got him the help at home that allowed him regular breaks…

“Do you race the dogs?” I asked, mentally changing my subject.

“Aye, they raced at Gretna last night – I’m just taking them for a small run,”

“…and your wife…? How’s she doing?”

“…oh, she’s fine – she still drives – she still goes walking in the hills with her friend – physically, she’s really fit…she occasionally forgets words – and sometimes she doesn’t recognise things… I’m quite happy leaving her at home alone…”

And that’s the key – it would appear that folk with dementia remained more oriented in familiar environments – and, paradoxically, deteriorated when they were placed in long term care – it was a tightrope…

He dived into his pocket and gave me a couple of quid to help me on my way…

We chatted for a while – a real delight – I didn’t want him to go…but his dogs were beginning to pull and whimper a bit…

I walked on for another 10 miles – I was just on my approach to Silloth – suddenly I heard…
“Go on Chris man – you’re doing a great job…” He was leaning out of his car window, waving like a…er…loon.

I’m still smiling as I think of his enthusiasm.

Walk a Mile


This entry was posted in inequality, mental health, social work, Uncategorized, walking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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