#HumansOfWMP: Garrie Fletcher, training officer

#HumansOfWMP - telling the story of WMP, one person at a time

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day. Training officer Garrie Fletcher shares his story.

"When my mother-in-law Margaret was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her early 80s, it wasn’t a surprise. For some time she’d preferred talking about her experiences in the Second World War or her childhood. When conversation drifted to the present, she would just sit and smile.

"After the diagnosis, her behaviour changed rapidly. She’d confuse her granddaughter with her daughter, forget who her husband George was and became aggressive if challenged.

Garrie Fletcher, training officer
Garrie Fletcher, training officer

"Margaret had always been an unassuming woman. As a retired art teacher, she’d been content with sketching and painting. She’d love socialising and she’d talk at length about education.

"But all of this changed. She became withdrawn and even nasty towards the end. At times, it became very difficult to recognise the woman we knew. This changed my wife Juliet’s relationship with her mum, their roles completely reversed. All through her life her mother had supported her and now Juliet was caring for someone who saw her as a stranger. Juliet lost her mother twice – when she developed Alzheimer’s and again when it finally took her life.

"The fact someone we loved had no idea who we were was hard on us all, but it was especially tough on George. He’d manged to hide Margaret’s confusion from us for ages and when it finally became impossible to ignore, he wouldn’t let on how difficult Margaret had become.

"It pretty much killed George too. He only lived for about a year after Margaret died. He passed away from what we believe was stomach cancer but he’d never told us about it.

"People are living longer and more cases of Alzheimer’s are being diagnosed, there’s a good chance someone close to you will experience it at some point. People with Alzheimer’s get simple things like names and places wrong but we learned not to challenge as it only added to the distress and confusion.  It’s a very draining condition but there’s loads of support out there and talking about it, as well as knowing you’re not alone, definitely makes a difference."

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