Elderly Couple Stay Together Thanks To Clifden House

August 21, 2018

Sue Kruse talks about the effect that a dementia diagnosis has had on her parents and the seemly insurmountable problem of trying to keep a loving elderly couple living together when only one of them needs specialist dementia care.

Marjorie and Arthur Oakins

Marjorie and Arthur Oakins

Marjorie, 94, and Arthur Oakins, 96, from Kent, met when Marjorie was just 16 years old. Arthur worked for BP as a regional manager and, during the war, Marjorie worked in a hospital laundry. Until recently Arthur was a very proud season ticket holder for Charlton Athletics and continues to be a passionate football fanatic..

It was about 10 years ago when the happy lives of Marjorie and Arthur Oakins began to unravel. Arthur started to get forgetful, put things in odd places and then one day he was found by a neighbour sitting in the car and bewildered – Arthur couldn’t remember how to drive. It was beyond doubt that something was not quite right. The family suspected it was the early stages of dementia – and a diagnosis soon followed confirming this.

Sue Kruse, their daughter, said: “Despite the diagnosis, Mum and Dad continued with their lives as best they could. My mum is a very loving person but as time trundled on she became poorly and was beginning to get somewhat exasperated by my Dad’s developing condition.”

Sue lives in Newhaven, while in the early stages of the diagnosis her parents were living in Kent. As Arthur’s situation deteriorated, Sue and her husband, and at times her sister and Sue’s eldest son, who both live in the Midlands, were needed more and more. The journeys over and back to Kent to help Marjorie and Arthur became regular occurrences. As Arthur’s condition worsened this frequently involved late night emergency journeys. The stress levels on everyone in the family became intolerable.

Sue said: “It was a very difficult time. We looked for assistance through all the usual channels but we found limited help. We tried to get support from social services as well as various relevant charitable organisations but they just gave my mum books to read. We engaged private carers but even that became insufficient as Dad became more unpredictable and his general abilities declined. My mum’s own health issues got worse too.”

Arthur needed full time care. This is where an unpredicted hurdle seemed insurmountable. Marjorie did not want to be separated from Arthur but there was no care home willing to take them in as a couple. The options were made clear – Arthur would be placed in a dementia section or wing of a care home but Marjorie could not stay there with him. Marjorie, who was not suffering from dementia, could only be placed in a different floor or wing of the home.

Sue said: “This was devastating for my mum. Mum was adamant, as were we, that after 70 plus years of being married they could not be separated – but it appears that a double room was not going to be made available to Mum and Dad in any care home – and we visited several. It was becoming an impossible situation. We didn’t know what to do. Then we called Clifden House Dementia Care Centre in Seaford. This is when everything changed for the better.”

Nial Joyce, Clifden House, said: “It is unusual to have a person who doesn’t have dementia residing in a dementia specialist home but in the circumstances it was more important that Marjorie and Arthur could remain together – as this is what they both wanted. The familiarity that comes with staying together can also help people with dementia stay calm and engaged. For all these reasons, we were willing to give it a go on trial basis, and see if Arthur and Marjorie were happy.”

Arthur and Marjoria have now been living together in Clifden House for two years. They are both very contented. Arthur and Marjorie will soon celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary and are as committed to each other today as they were on their wedding day in 1945.

Sue said: “I can honestly say that Mum and Dad are very happy at Clifden. When I ask Mum if she is sure that she wants to stay there she very firmly says that she is totally happy at Clifden and likes to be involved with my Dad’s care.

“If mum wants to go shopping or out for a coffee, and I’m not available, there is someone at Clifden to go with her. Mum has actually got back more of her confidence since she has been living at Clifden House with Dad. Clifden House has been totally amazing – for all of us.

“We totally trust the team at Clifden house. We know that my mum and dad are safe, well cared for, entertained and stimulated. We see them at least three times a week and both mum and dad are always in good spirits. We were so lucky to find Clifden House – I simply can’t say enough good things about them.”

Marjorie and Arthur were wonderful parents to Sue and her sister when they were growing up and Sue is delighted that they have achieved a solution to what was once a heartbreaking and difficult time for her parents and her family.

Majorie and Arthur Oakins

Majorie and Arthur Oakins