Knowledge and strength
From the February / March 2017 issue of our magazine, we hear from a carer who became a volunteer after receiving Society support
When Glenn Cousins and his wife, Maureen, found out she had Alzheimer's five years ago, it came as a complete shock.
‘I'd never seen her look so frightened,' he says of Maureen, who was 69 at the time. 'She had looked after my mother, who'd been diagnosed 20 years earlier, and was devastated by it.'
They got in touch with Alzheimer's Society after moving to Tendring in Essex the following year. Glenn, now 72, says he doesn't know what he would have done otherwise.
‘Anyone who gets a diagnosis of dementia should contact the Society immediately.
‘We got a lot of support and it created a social life for both of us, mixing with other people in the same position.'
Their own path
Glenn and Maureen had never shied away from finding their own path.
‘She'd always been a very active, literate woman,' says Glenn. 'And an excellent non-professional actress.'
Combining her skills with Glenn's reptile-keeping and experience of training people to scuba dive, they ran educational sessions handling snakes and other animals in schools and at events.
Glenn says, 'I have a photo of Maureen at Colchester Zoo with a tarantula in one hand and a scorpion in the other!'
After Maureen's diagnosis, they made a list of things they wanted to do while they still could. However, half of them remained undone.
'Within a year, she started to go downhill,' says Glenn. It affected her sense of time and short-term memory, then her mobility and ability to communicate.
'The groups became a way of life, something we could do together,' says Glenn.
After an initial home visit from the Society, the couple became regulars at Clacton-on-Sea's popular dementia café, as well as enjoying Singing for the Brain, ten-pin bowling and other activities.
'The groups became a way of life, something we could do together.'
In addition to ongoing help from volunteers and staff, Glenn attended our Carer Information and Support Programme (CrISP).
‘It all gave me the knowledge and, more importantly, the strength to carry on in what was becoming a more demanding caring role.'
Eventually, Glenn had to accept that Maureen needed to move into residential care, which she did last March.
‘I felt so guilty, I cried my eyes out for an hour when I got home,' he says. 'But my wife is being cared for much better there, and I can spend quality time with her now.'
Determined to stay in touch with the Society and give something back, Glenn (pictured helping at Dementia Café Clacton) immediately signed up as a volunteer.
'I found that you learn your caring role,' he says.
Now he helps others to learn theirs.
- Find out about volunteering opportunities near you.
- See our Staying involved and active factsheet.
- Read the next article from this issue of the magazine.