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Flintshire carers speak about axing of nursing service for dementia sufferers

Earlier this year health chiefs cut a lifeline for full-time carers of Alzheimer and dementia sufferers. Now two elderly husbands have spoken about the effect the axing of Flintshire’s Admiral Nursing Service has had on their lives

TWO carers have spoken of the effect the axing of a vital dementia care service has had on their lives.

Malcolm Scott and Raymond Sayers are full-time carers for their wives, who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Both couples were supported by Flintshire’s Admiral Nursing Service, a crutch for both carers and dementia sufferers, which was axed by health chiefs in April.

Malcolm, 72, said he and wife Margaret badly miss the support offered by their Admiral nurse, who visited them every fortnight at their home in Carmel, near Holywell.

He added: “Margaret was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago and is now in the mid-stages.

“We received help from Carol, our nurse, from early 2009 onwards.

“She used to come and take me out shopping and I looked forward to her visits.

“I did all I could when I heard they were thinking of getting rid of the service, but it didn’t do any good.

“We were all devastated and there will be no extra help for dementia sufferers now, given the economic situation.

“We really do miss her help. We attend a therapy group called Flintshire Sounds now, which is very helpful and we are hoping the funding doesn’t get taken away from that too.”

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board pulled support from the Admiral nurses when it decided not to make them a ‘mainstream’ priority.

The service employed two nurses and part-time admin staff, helping more than 36 carers.

But towards the end, nurse Carol Mortimer was left to care for couples alone when her colleague was forced to leave and seek more secure employment.

Carol, who is now retired but still speaks to the families she helped on a regular basis, said: “It was such a shame to lose the service, because it had so much potential.

“We were able to refer carers and sufferers to other services and able to make sure the carers were looking after themselves properly.

“Dementia is a very difficult condition to deal with and sufferers cannot always communicate their needs.

“So if a carer becomes ill physically or with stress and anxiety, and cannot care for that person any more, we can let other services know more about the person and care for them better.”

Carol said she would be willing to back any campaign to bring back the service.

She added: “It was a much-needed service and I cannot believe the health board can’t see that.”

Former service user Raymond, 82, looks after his 79-year-old wife Beryl at home in Gronant.

She was diagnosed six years ago and is in the later stages of the condition.

Raymond said: “They call Alzheimer’s the long goodbye, and it really is that.

“Beryl is not the same woman any more. She doesn’t recognise any of us.

“The only time it feels normal is when we’re lying in bed together going to sleep, and it is just like old times.

“But when you get up you remember that everything is different.”

Raymond is supported by his daughter and grandson, who live nearby, but also misses Carol’s help.

“I used to look forward to Carol’s visits,” he said.

“She would sit and have a coffee with us and a chat. It was nice because although I see my family a lot, our friends don’t come any more.

“I think it’s very difficult for them to see Beryl deteriorate. I can’t go out because I look after Beryl 24/7, so my social life doesn’t exist any more.

“It was nice having Carol’s support. She was supposed to be mainly for the carer but she looked after us both.”

A spokesman for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “The health board is in the process of developing a carer support nurse post in the Flintshire area.

“This nurse will be available to advise and support the carers of people with older persons mental health problems such as dementia.

“It is hoped this post will be advertised in the new year and the successful candidate will be funded and employed by the health board.”

Flintshire Sounds, run by the county council, provides therapeutic music sessions for those with memory problems, as well as their families, carers and friends.

The sessions aim to provide a welcoming atmosphere where people can enjoy the music, reminisce about the past and meet people in similar situations.

New classes began earlier this month in Buckley and Holywell on Thursday mornings. For details call Sara Davies on 01352702573 or email [email protected].