Chris and Jack’s Story

Chris has been caring for her 79 year old husband Jack, since he was diagnosed with unspecified dementia.

Prior to lockdown, Jack was a very happy and sociable man who attended many community groups in East Herts, which gave structure to his day. Chris attended the groups with him as well as volunteering at their local dementia group in Hertford.

During COVID-19, with many days spent at home, Jacks’ dementia progressed both cognitively and physically. Chris increased his personal care and saw a change in his behaviour as he was always wanting to know where Chris was at all times.

Chris explains:

“Nothing ever changes, being tied down is hard. I am completely exhausted.”

“Jack’s dementia has definitely been affected due to lack of routine and social interaction.”

As their weekly dementia group was cancelled, they joined their group online via Zoom, which they both enjoy.

Jack enjoys seeing everyone’s faces and particularly enjoys singing with the group, but has started to struggle with identifying what is real and what is not, believing that individuals taking part in Zoom are sitting in his house”

During the regular wellbeing calls to her Dementia Support Worker, Chris has bought to light the struggles she has been facing and has broken down on a number of occasions as she has been feeling helpless.

With permission from Chris, their Dementia Support Worker arranged for a week’s respite for Jack in Belmont Care Home, as well as arranging for a disabled parking space outside their home to help with getting Jack from the car into their home.

Before Jack went into respite, we agreed that we would complete a garden visit with him, as he would greatly benefit from face to face contact. We discussed the possibility of a joint garden visit with a couple from the Hertford group as they get on very well, with different activities and quizzes.

Chris has been over the moon with the amount of help she has been given by the Hertswise Team saying:

“…the thing is having the ability to get up and go as and when I please is the part I enjoy the most, I don’t have to be doing anything special because the freedom is the special bit, we don’t realise how lucky we are to have it until it has gone…”

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“I just miss the physical contact of holding her hand.”

Lockdown has been strange for everyone, especially for John who hasn’t been able to see his wife for three months.

John and his wife have been happily married for 45 years. During her early 60’s his wife, Lesley, was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia which changed both of their lives. She spent the next five years living at home with John as her primary carer. But as her dementia progressed, John found it difficult to care for her full time so he made the difficult decision to place her in a Nursing Home – where she has been since 2014.

At the Home she has round the clock care available to her, and John has been getting to know the other families of the residents that live with her also. John had a routine where he was able to see Lesley at meal times, but since 9th March 2020 the Nursing Home decided to close its doors to all visitors due to coronavirus.

He was not allowed to visit his wife for 3 months which he said “I found it hard as I was so used to visiting her and now there is that lack of close contact which I miss.”

Whilst he was unable to visit, he has been keeping busy at home by gardening, walking, listening to music, calling people as much as he can, as well as having his Carers Support Groups over Zoom with Sally and Vicky from Hertswise Dementia Service.

“I get upset sometimes as at first I was not able to see my wife, family or friends so I felt very isolated by myself.”

– John

He continues: “I am now allowed to visit Lesley, although it has to be outside 2 metres apart, I have to wash my hands and wear a mask.  I just miss the physical contact of holding her hand, but I am grateful that I now get to see her – even if it is for 15 minutes once a week.”

John, 72

Hertswise on BBC Radio 2

Photo by Pixabay on

With thanks to the wonderful Anne-Marie, Hertswise Staff Member, Hertswise, Age UK Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire Mind where given a shout out on BBC Radio 2 by Phil Williams. She spoke about who Hertswise are and how they adapted since COVID-19.

To listen, click on the following link and hear the clip from 34.44: