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'He went downhill and it's just going to get worse. There's no cure'

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 10/06/2015

Doreen McPernaghan and her husband Hugh on their wedding day
Doreen McPernaghan and her husband Hugh on their wedding day

Doreen McPernaghan (76) looks after her husband Hugh (81), who has vascular dementia. Because of the illness he can no longer speak.

Doreen, from Belfast, said she had been helped by Age NI's dementia support home service.

"We met at a dance many years ago and we are married 57 years and have two children," she said.

"I would not like Hugh to go into a home. There is no place like your own home. He has all the comforts here and I can walk with him in the garden.

"Luckily, Hugh took early retirement and we had 10 good years before the disease took hold. Then he took a stroke. We had hoped he would get better but he was diagnosed with vascular dementia after two years and he went downhill from there. And it's just going to get worse. There's no cure.

"He would have said that we loved walking in the sunshine, but that's all (in the) past now.

"We have some very dark days. He was a very pleasant man, very easygoing, and if I was all right, he was all right. We always liked to socialise and have people come to the house for dinner, but then it got that he didn't talk very much. I suppose people were embarrassed and they just seemed to fade away."

Doreen said before retiring Hugh worked as a foreman at an industrial plant that made equipment for making oil wells and was also a great golfer who loved nothing more than going on holidays. They have not been able to do this for the past five years.

"Dementia brings with it a stigma and it's hid under the carpet and I think there should be more awareness as it's like an epidemic now," Doreen added.

"I don't know what I would do without the help of the carers, even though my family is very good. If I didn't have support of carers I couldn't cope at home. Without that help I couldn't do it.

"The disease has been life changing, we don't go anywhere anymore. I get to church every other week, that keeps me going.

"Nights are very lonely, more so in the winter when you don't see anyone. Hugh doesn't talk. I try my best. You just have to take it a day at a time. I would like people to know more about the disease. Hugh would look after me if I was ill, take me to the hairdressers, make sure I was well dressed.

"He's a different person now, he is not my husband anymore. He is a shadow of what he was. I can't leave him on his own. We are always together. That's the way it will be while there's breath in my body. But you are walking in the dark."

Belfast Telegraph

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