My husband with dementia inspires me to help make football more accessible

Football was Stan's greatest love. Now that he has dementia, his wife Candy is inspired to help in any way she can to make football more accessible for people with dementia.

My sporting loves were cricket, motor racing and rugby union, until I met Stan, my husband, in 1979. Because football was his greatest love I became – almost against my will – interested in it.

A successful coaching career

Stan was a qualified FA coach and had trained and learned alongside Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. He was a manager at Wilmslow Albion football club and our first few years together were supporting him there.

Our dates often involved me dropping him off to see players and talk tactics, rather than anything romantic, but I didn’t mind.

Candy with her arm round her husband Stan - both of them smiling

Candy with Stan, her husband

Stan was really dedicated and inspired incredible loyalty.

He was their Clubman of the Year 1982-83, and was so proud of that. He played for a Sunday League team into his 40s, and I’d go to watch him.

As Stan is from Manchester, he was a Manchester City fan from when he was a little kid, but as I was not from the area, I always followed Manchester United.

I changed my allegiance for him and though I didn’t go to the games with him, the two of us would enjoy watching football on TV together.

An old photograph of Candy and Stan in the pub reading the sports section of the Manchester Evening News

Candy and Stan always kept up to date with the latest football news

Noticing changes in Stan

Stan was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2011. By 2014, his health deteriorated and he was allowed to have a stem cell transplant at the Royal Marsden which saved his life. A couple of years later, aged 69, as he was getting physically healthier, he was getting increasingly forgetful.

He couldn’t remember our address or the PIN for his cards.

If he was getting a taxi home from the pub, he’d ask them to let him out when he thought he was nearby, and he’d just wander around.

He got confused between numbers and letters. It took two years to get him to agree to see someone about it.

Life after the dementia diagnosis

His GP referred him to the mental health trust, and we also had a private consultation who agreed on result and outcome. He was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2018 at the age of 71.

I felt relief that we would finally get the help and recognition we needed.

When the doctor advised him to surrender his driving licence and he agreed, that was a big relief. I’d been using various tricks to prevent him for driving because he wasn’t safe. To start with Stan was very positive about the diagnosis.

He was very open about it with his friends. But as time went on he’d occasionally get a bit angry if I reminded him.

After his diagnosis, Stan continued to go to Manchester City matches with our son-in-law Waine, so that he’d keep Stan safe.

Stan pictured smiling, with a Manchester City shirt being held up in front of him

Stan used to love going to watch his beloved Manchester City

But stadiums can be scary for people with dementia.

Unfortunately, that stopped after a while too. We used to stay at my mum’s house but she died in December 2019, so we had to stay in a Premier Inn. Stan would wet the bed or wander off around the hotel. Staff were wonderful but I found it too much for me.

Then Covid-19 came along so there weren’t any games to go to anyway.

Losing his love for the game

Now, he doesn’t follow football at all. He doesn’t know that they’re playing. He has a signed photograph of him with Mike Summerbee, but he doesn’t recognise himself there.

A picture of a signed photograph of Stan with Mike Summerbee

A signed photo of Stan in his training days with Mike Summerbee

I miss him not having the connection with football because he so loved it. Even though I still follow what is happening in the Premier League, it doesn’t mean anything to him.

I miss his passion for football.

Feeling inspired to make sport more accessible

I was invited to get involved with the Sport United Against Dementia campaign in 2021 and am taking part on Stan’s behalf. I want to make grounds, getting tickets, and getting to games more accessible for people like Stan, because it is really tricky.

Not everyone with dementia can go online or phone up for tickets. People who don’t know someone with dementia doesn’t really understand, so I’m just trying to make it easier for people like Stan.

Inspired by her grandad and dad to get involved in sport, our 13-year-old granddaughter Freya has always played football.

She plays for her local club and has just won their Most Improved Player award. It is wonderful to see Stan’s legacy live on through Freya. She could be a future Lioness!

Stan and Candy's grand daughter, Freya, pictured in her football kit holding a trophy

Candy and Stan's grand daughter, Freya, is continuing her grandad's football legacy

Help us be there for people like Candy and Stan

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5 comments

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My husband is an ex professional footballer, when he finished his playing he worked behind the scenes and finally became stadium manager at Bradford City Football Club He followed a similar path to your husband referred to memory services in 2008 and finally diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2011 aged 67 I have all his scrap books and action photos but they don’t hold his attention, matches on tv have no interest. He knew the stadium like the back of his hand, every blade of grass, stadium lighting, safety codes, drainage, buildings, all the tech stuff, right up to VIP guests and corporate hospitality for sponsors. Breaks my heart to see him so apathetic, we’ve not been back for years , doesn’t hold his attention on tv either ☹️

Thanks for your comment, Christine. We're sorry to hear about your husband, it sounds like a very difficult time for you.

If you'd like to speak with someone, please know that our advisers are here to support you on 0333 150 3456.

When you call our Dementia Connect support line, our advisers will listen to you, understand your situation and provide you with information, advice and support. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

If you're interested in sharing your experiences with your husband and more about his career, you can write a post, like Candy has, for our blog. Please email [email protected] if this sounds like something you'd like to know more about. We'd love to hear from you.

Or if you don't want to write a post yourself, you can also share your story with us: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/share-your-story Experiences like yours can help raise awareness.

We really hope this is helpful, Christine. Please do consider calling the support line for advice, or contacting us to share your story.

Alzheimer's Society website team

My husband was also a professional footballer back in the 1960's and was diagnosed in 2016 aged 69 with Alzheimer's. He too now has no interest whatsoever on watching his beloved Aston Villa. He no longer knows when they're playing and who the current squad names are. It breaks my heart as he too knew literally everything there was to know about anything related to the club. I used to so enjoy his absolute passion watching them on TV but now he barely recognises that it's them that are playing! 😞
My late Father Derek Potter was a sports journalist and worked with Manchester City, he would have known Stan. I feel your pain and I'm sure the club would be willing to help get Stan to a game, perhaps with a private taxi and a ticket to a private box. Speak to the club and the Alzheimer Society as working together they can make a difference to people like Stan. Bless you for the support and love you have for your husband , but do look after yourself too. Jane x
Jane, how lovely for you offer this, and to know that your late father might have known Stan. Even a year or so ago I think Stan would have been able to handle the experience you suggest, and I'm sure that Alzheimer's and our family would help. But I fear it would be too much now for him - but not for others! Best wishes, Candy
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