The BBC documentary “Ambulance” recently featured the tragic story of an 84-year-old man who killed his wife. This documentary featured the actual recording of this gentleman’s 999 call as he reported killing his wife, who had dementia, by hitting her with an iron bar as she could no longer walk and had become incontinent. His haunting words to the telephone responder were: “I can’t cope”. This is a link to the news item relating to his court case last November, when he was given a 2 year suspended sentence.
Apparently, this man killed his wife as a “act of mercy” after he realised that she no longer recognised him. Hearing and reading about this case struck such a chord with me and DCC as a charity as we feel so strongly about the need for family carers of people with dementia to have more support, practically and psychologically. This sad case highlights just how serious this need is. We know that many family carers feel low in mood, isolated, hopeless and desperate. When you feel like there is no solution and no escape, it can be so hard to think that there could be a way for the situation to improve. If only this man had had more support…..
We want you to know that you are not alone. If you are caring for someone with dementia you are part of a growing community of 700,000 people in the UK. We know it’s not easy. We understand that as well as the physical and financial demands on carers, there are significant psychological pressures to manage, and that it is likely that grief is being processed alongside this too. We also want you to have hope. Sometimes it’s hard to think about hope when things seem so desperate.
DCC runs 3-day residential courses for family carers of people with dementia. These courses are run by health care professionals who are experts in their fields. On these courses we support carers to learn more about dementia and how to respond to the changes this creates in an individual and the relationship. We also aim to provide carers with a ‘toolkit’ of psychological tips and approaches to help them build their resilience. Feedback from carers has been consistently brilliant. Furthermore, Worcester University have evaluated the effectiveness of these courses and found that they have significant short term and long-term benefits to carers’ well-being.
It’s easy to get stuck in a trap of caring for others, putting their needs before your own, and being too busy, without taking time to look after yourself and replenish your energy levels. Taking care of yourself and building your resilience is not ‘selfish’, it’s a necessity. I often think of self-care as taking your daily medicine – you need to do this to survive. If you, or someone you know, cares for someone with dementia, whether you live with them or not, you are welcome to come on one of our courses. You will also meet others in similar situations. If the words of that man who phoned 999, “I can’t cope”, resonate with you, please know that you will not be judged by us. We want to provide you with some support and much needed rest and relaxation so you can return to your caring roles feeling better equipped and re-energised. If you’re not sure, why not pick up the phone to us and we can talk you through what is to be expected on the course to find out whether it’s something you would enjoy. We hope to see you there! And if you know of anyone else who would benefit from coming please spread the word. Change can happen when we all work together.
If you feel you can’t cope and need to speak to someone urgently, call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. No judgement. No pressure. The Samaritans are there for anyone who needs someone.
Dr Gemima Fitzgerald
Psychological and Talking Therapies Lead