Dementia fails to separate couple married for 70 years

10 January, 2013

With the rapid increase in the number of people living with dementia, older couples are facing separation due to their differing care needs. Not so for one couple, who are still together after 70 years of marriage, despite one being affected by this devastating condition.

When Phyllis Hodges was hit by a car while out walking, it was ‘touch and go’ as to whether she would survive her injuries, and she was hospitalised for three months. During this time, her husband John, who lives with dementia, was left without a carer, and so he moved into residential care at Amana Living Lesmurdie  (Parry House).

Thankfully, Phyllis made a good recovery and, after being discharged, her care needs were assessed. It was determined that she required low level care, and so she was also accepted into the Amana Living care facility, where she could be close to John.  Phyllis and John are now preparing to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in their new home on  23 January 2013.

Keeping Couples Together 
With basic health care needs taking priority, the emotional welfare of couples can be overlooked, and yet this can have a significant effect on their general wellbeing and long-term health.

The onset of dementia may result in one partner moving into residential care, resulting in forced separation, which can be especially traumatic for couples who have lived together for most of their lives.

Aged care provider Amana Living offers both residential care and retirement living units on many of its sites, allowing couples to be accommodated at the same location if space is available, whatever their care needs might be.

Alternatively, couples may take advantage of the organisation’s range of home care supports so that they can continue to live well in their own homes.

“Amana Living takes the needs of couples seriously, and whenever possible, we will help them to stay together in their own home or accommodate them at the same residential site,” said CEO Ray Glickman.

“Phyllis’s son was keen for her to be admitted to Amana Living’s Lesmurdie facility to be close to her husband after the emotional trauma of the car accident. Her current care needs are few, but emotionally she is benefiting from being with her husband.”

Commenting on the Hodges’ situation, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia WA, Rhonda Parker, said: “Relationships continue to be very important during the journey of dementia both for the carer and for the person with dementia. It is important there is flexibility in long-term care options so couples who choose to continue living together have that option.”

John and Phyllis Hodges are just one example of a couple who are staying together, despite the onset of dementia.

“John and Phyllis were so delighted to be back together, it was wonderful to witness,” said Amana Living Care Manager Lee Smith. “They are now living happily together in the facility, and we are looking into moving them to adjoining rooms so that they have their own ‘unit’.

The couple’s family will join them for a lunchtime celebration at Amana Living Lesmurdie to mark their 70th wedding anniversary on Wednesday 23 January.

Support for Carers 
Support for carers through education and advocacy is provided by Amana Living’s award-winning McCusker Nurse Service, and by Dementia Australia’s Dementia Helpline. These services help carers to negotiate the challenges presented when a loved one is affected by dementia, including decisions regarding accommodation and the best option for care.

McCusker Nurse Service: (08) 9424 6396 –mccuskernurse@amanaliving.com.au

Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500

Further Information 
Jane Hammond 
(08) 9424 6330 
0434 246 564 
jhammond@amanaliving.com.au