Keith & Audrey
Over the many of years of managing live in care packages, there are always individual stories that leave an indelible mark. One such story is about Keith & Audrey who after 60 years of marriage found themselves in need of care & companionship.
Their life journey had reached a pivotal point; either receive live in care at home or be separated through hospitalisation & residential care. There was only ever one decision for this devoted couple – stay together at all costs with the support of live in care.
The Journey Begins
Keith and Audrey met in the Oldham Repertory Theatre in 1953 where they fell in love and were married in 1955. Keith’s father was the Mayor of Salford at the time so their wedding was a grand Mayoral event!
In those days football was not a professional sport and his father was a strong Labour man. He believed that being a footballer wasn’t a “proper job”.
Keith completed teachers training college and became an art teacher. In 1964 Keith was assigned as headmaster for the British Forces Education Service and moved to Germany with Audrey and their two daughters (Debbie & Della).
Keith went on to become a very successful headmaster and art teacher, leading many international schools throughout the world. Audrey faithfully at his side, managing the house and family.
Their daughter Della recalls the transit lifestyle the family led because of her fathers’ career that was both an adventure and a burden.
“My dad would be in charge of many different schools within our childhood and we would be regularly on the move. We went from the lows of old school military institutes in places like Germany that were very archaic in their methods and then to the wealth and affluence of Geneva, Switzerland”
“He was in a very high powered position throughout his career and I believe this really took its emotional toll. When it came time to retire, my parents bought a house in the South of France. It was here that they just relaxed from the years of travel and pressure”..
Understanding the Burden
Most families are unaware of the responsibilities that come when caring for elderly loved ones. People live with a sense that they will be able to cope somehow when the time arises.
Unfortunately, most are not prepared. They find themselves in the middle of a storm, unable to manage the physical and emotional burdens that come with it.
Della explains; “They had always been so active and dad was the life & soul of the party. It was a real shock when they could no longer live independently”.
“Due to the circumstances, we naturally felt obliged to have them live with us and take care of them. We had no idea the stress and impact this would have on us. As a result, the dynamics of our relationships would change”
Della’s daughter Abi was a teenager when her grandparents came to live with them. She recalls her own challenges;
“I felt that I had two sets of parents which at times was hard. My grandparents were very traditional and had strong opinions about life”.
“I remember times where I would be in charge. I’d be looking after them so my parents could have a break but my grandparents thought they were looking after me”!
“There was a lot of conflict in the house during those years, especially as my grandparents became more and more dependent on us. The more we did things for them the more they became reliant on us and the more burdened we felt”.
By their own admission, the family were not prepared or equipped to care of their loved ones. They spent many years struggling through and moving houses to accommodate Keith & Audrey while sacrificing their own lives.
Della explains, “We weren’t able to be proactive but always reactive, because of the way circumstances suddenly changed, which I regret, but we had no idea what to do or what support was available”.
“We look back now and see the huge physical, mental and financial impact this had on our lives and continues to this day. We now realise that caring for ourselves is the most important thing which allows you to care for other people and make wise decisions”.
There was no Dad without Mum
After 60 years of marriage and being so reliant on one another. The last thing Keith & Audrey would consider would be separating from each other.
Although a Social Services representative recommended to Della that her parents should separate to relieve the burden, there was no way the family would advocate this as a viable solution as it would destroy them.
“We were clueless in this world of care, but we knew that mum and dad needed to stay together – there was no dad without mum”!
“We had now found a nice little place for mum and dad to live that was central within Petersfield town. This gave us all some breathing space and independence. However, dad was deteriorating quickly due to the Alzheimers and Vascular Dementia. It was unsafe for him to be by himself and mum could not cope on her own, especially with her own frailties”.
“After some hospital admissions, we made enquires about having people come in to support during different times of the day. This unfortunately did not provide the level of care or continuity that my parents needed. We then looked at live in care for a respite period to see if this would work.”
Benefits of Live in Care
Della and the family experienced immediate changes in the way mum and dad were responding to care and also the pressure that it removed from them.
“Having a live in carer was amazing as it was like having an extension to the family. Mum and dad responded really well and built lovely relationships with the live in carers”.
“This allowed mum and dad to receive proper care and allowed us to take a step back from the day to day responsibilities. We were able to get away being reassured that everything was going to be okay.”
“Live in care is the best option as far as we are concerned. We would always highly recommend live in care if people are looking at care options for their loved ones”.
“Live in care supported my parents to stay living together for as long as possible. We are so grateful to Leigh McDonald and his team for making this happen through genuine compassion and professionalism.”
Keith & Audrey are no longer with us but their story is worthy of sharing. We are so thankful to their family who have been honest and vulnerable in order to help those who will go through similar experiences.