The impact of living alone during lockdown for one local man with dementia, told by a Carer

“We were concerned about John’s health and wellbeing”, said Sue when she and her colleague Ruth arrived at John’s house one day last week. Sue and Ruth are Carer Support workers with Crossroads.

John’s wife Elsie died some 10 months earlier and his life was left shattered. She was his rock and John was still very much grieving her loss. He took a long while to find his way again. As each day went by, John still missed Elsie, but slowly day by day, he began to feel better and realised he needed to get some help.

John regularly attends a Crossroads Community Activity Centre. A club in his local area designed for people who have additional care needs, like dementia, stroke or disability. The club is casual, but structured. Club members can participate in many different activities throughout the session which are designed to encourage people to keep both mentally and physically well. From baking bread to flower design, brain teasers and creative art projects – there is something for everyone.

The specialist care staff and volunteers working at the club love what they do; they are caring, compassionate and kind, treating each and every individual with the respect they deserve. They offer members a social experience where they feel welcomed, cherished and valued.

In the last few months, the clubs have been closed due to social distancing restrictions imposed by the UK Government to keep people safe from Coronavirus (Covid-19) and it is clear to see just how much lockdown has affected John. As we get older, keeping connected is incredibly important to keep emotionally well.

When our care workers arrived at John’s house, they really didn’t know what to expect. They had been regularly trying to contact him through welfare calls and when they could not reach him, they decided to visit.

This is their story:

“We arrived earlier that morning having tried to contact John numerous times. The house was quiet, but looking through the window into the hall, we could see signs of recent activity.” John is an elderly gentleman, living on his own with dementia.

“We called out his name through the letter box and we could see the house had signs of recent activity, but with no response we decided to pop into the back garden. The door was open, we knocked again and John heard us and came down to see who we were.

John recognised us and smiled. He had become disconnected during lockdown and from the moment he opened his eyes and recognised us, he knew we were people who cared.

Upon entering his home the first sense to kick in was the smell of damp, then we discovered the house in a state of disarray. It was clear that once, not too long ago, this house was well cared for. A beautiful period property with high ceilings. Framed pictures of friends and family now tinged with a thin layer of dust and dirty dishes were piled high in the kitchen sink and littered throughout the house. We found personal belongings in different rooms just lying about.

We stayed the entire morning and the time we took to help John by simply listening meant a great deal. The practical support of changing his bedding, taking care of the chores was needed but not essential, John simply wanted our company, someone to share a conversation with. He was more confused than the last time we met, and he didn’t understand why we arrived with personal protection equipment. The mask was a little bit of a fright, but after we had explained our reasons for wearing them, he soon adjusted.

It was difficult to walk away. We promised John we’d be back next week, to spend some time with him in the garden.”

Last year, the Government launched a campaign #everydayisdifferent when you work in health & social care.

“Some days can be challenging and others completely rewarding. Today, we made a difference for John and gave him a reason to keep living. John is the reason why we keep caring.” says Sue.

We have changed the names in our blog to protect our vulnerable client. Social Services have been informed of this case and are now regularly visiting the client.