Arthur's story is a poignant tale to tell, and Age UK Lancashire and our Dementia Team were so privileged to support Arthur and his journey with Dementia.
Arthur was a hard-working man, devoted to his family and his wife Marjorie; he was a veteran, having completed his service with the Royal Air Force down in Kent. His retirement didn’t slow him down, regularly attending coffee mornings, lunch clubs, church services and plenty of walking with Marjorie.
Arthur had been diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2016, which, in his own words, ‘had slowed me down and made my world that bit smaller’. He maintained his busy schedule for as long as possible with the support of his Marjorie, but Marjorie knew that Arthur needed more stimulation to provide her with respite from caring.
This is where Age UK Lancashire first encountered Marjorie and Arthur, who was 89 at the time. They enquired about our new Cognitive Stimulation Therapy programme, which launched in late 2019 aimed at supporting veterans who were living with dementia. Initially, Arthur opted to go on the waiting list, as the sessions had already begun. Our Dementia Activity Lead, Abigail, visited Arthur and Marjorie at their house for an assessment. She said:
“What struck me on that first visit was just how much the couple clearly cared for and supported each other. Arthur was a true gentleman and Marjorie a kind and patient partner. They worked as a team and were very grateful to learn about what support was available to them.”
Following the assessment, Abigail introduced Arthur and Marjorie to several local services that could help, including Age UK Lancashire’s Dementia Hub and Alzheimer’s Society, Admiral Nurses, as well as referring Marjorie to the Carers’ Service for an assessment to claim Carers’ Allowance. Abigail kept in touch with them both via email and went beyond, to help them with some jobs that needed to be done at their house, by contacting a Safe Trader that could fix their shower and roof.
Two months after meeting Arthur and Marjorie, the country went into lockdown, putting an abrupt halt to Age UK Lancashire’s face-to-face dementia services, including the Dementia Hub. Abigail was conscious of the impact this would have on older couples such as Arthur and Marjorie, and so set up a West Lancashire Peer Support Group on Facebook and invited them to join this as well as the reinvented virtual Dementia Hub. Although they were pretty “Zoomed out” from attending Church services online, they were very grateful for the offer and reassured us that they were managing OK.
Abigail kept in regular touch with Arthur and Marjorie, offering support where she could and, fast forward to 2021, when the door re-opened to our face-to-face dementia services, Arthur was keen to attend the face-to-face groups.
Marjorie had contacted us to say that Arthur had struggled with a few physical problems involving his feet, back and shoulder and that lockdown had not helped him with his confidence in going places. Arthur was still interested in the Cognitive Stimulation Therapy programme but was not sure how he would cope, as he felt he was slow to understand things and might fall behind. A home visit was arranged to support Arthur and explain further the benefits of attending the programme. Arthur was in good spirits, telling jokes and proudly showing off his garden and the work he had put into it over the lockdown period.
Arthur was an instant hit with the staff, being described as an incredible and kind gentleman and gaining the nickname ‘King Arthur’ with his walking stick “Excalibur”! Arthur really enjoyed the sessions, reminiscing and sharing photos of fond memories, including his time on his motorbike. Arthur’s wellbeing improved thanks to the time with the group. He said:
“They have lifted me up. I’m really happy with how it’s going and enjoying being looked after and doing the tasks which work the brain out.”
With Arthur attending the sessions, this provided a respite for Marjorie from caring for him and she was able to go out and meet friends, which helped her own wellbeing. She said, “having a space each week in which to meet a friend, or spend time alone, is really helpful to me”.
Due to a bad reaction to the Covid-19 jab and a growing hernia, Arthur attended 15 out of 24 sessions in total. By November, Arthur’s wellbeing was in decline, both physically and cognitively, and the team did all they could to accommodate his needs, including sourcing a comfier chair from eBay to help ease his back pain, which became known as “Arthur’s Seat”.
Marjorie kept the team up to-date on Arthur’s health but, with his declining mobility and challenges with communication, Arthur decided against attending the therapy sessions.
Sadly, a few months later, Abigail and the team learnt Arthur passed away peacefully in a care home on 19th May. Upon finding out, the team reached out to Marjorie expressing their sympathies and sharing some photographs of Arthur during their time with the team. Marjorie was moved by their message saying:
“Thanks so much for your sympathy card, and the lovely surprise photos of Arthur enjoying his time with you all last year, they brought a tear to my eyes, but in a good way.”
It’s stories like Arthur that bring our work to life. They demonstrate the value of our services and the impact, however small, we have on people’s lives and those around them.
We are privileged to work in the roles we do, supporting people through all sorts of challenges, some complex and frustrating, others smooth and straightforward. Sometimes it is only later that we understand the difference we made, especially when loss follows soon after. We should all be very proud of what we do.