“I couldn’t cope anymore”– those were the words of 80-year-old David Matthews who finally admitted that he needed help to care for his wife. He has spoken out about what it is like when you give up much of your own life to care for another – and urged Echo readers to ‘live your life until the last breath’.
David and Jean Matthews married in 1956 and have a close family of children, grandchildren and step-grandchildren.
Sadly, life became difficult when Jean could no longer care for herself around eight years ago and she was later diagnosed with dementia.
David said: “It all came to head on Christmas Day at my son’s house in 2012.
“We had lived in Wareham for 44 years and I had been caring for my wife full-time with no help.
“I was now doing things that I’d never done – luckily before Jean got to ill she taught me how to cook, use the washing machine and care for her completely.
“On that Christmas day my daughter-in-law asked me if I was coping and I had to finally admit it and say ‘no, I’m not’.”
Soon after this, the couple moved to sheltered housing Fleur de Lis in Poundbury, which is near to their son Colin’s house.
He added: “The problems had been coming on for eight or nine years. Jean didn’t want to go to the doctors and we managed the best way we could.
“Jean was 70 and she said she didn’t want to cook anymore. She started to not want to answer the phone or turn the telly on.
“As her illness progresses I am learning as I go along.”
Now that the couple live near to help and local services, Mr Matthews who retired 24-years ago, is finally finding the time for himself.
“I was told that I should have asked for help a long time ago. What I didn’t realise is that over the course of six or seven years that I had aged and suddenly the jobs seemed harder.”
He now attends meetings, workshops and support groups with other carers, is a member of the local museum and makes the most of a Dorchester day centre.
He added: “When you first realise that you are a carer it is quite daunting – there is so much to think about like administration, attendance allowances, blue badges, power of attorney and much more.”
Mr Matthews’ day begins at 6.30am and sometimes his wife Jean is so tired he can only get her to the day centre later in the afternoon.
He is now having lessons to learn how to use an iPad and is a keen painter.
He told the Echo: “At least we are still together and since I asked for help there are so many things that I know now that have made my life easier.
“This includes raising the bed, tips with lifting her as i suffer with a bad back and my family are really hands-on.”
He added: “If you are struggling to care for someone then please ask for help.
“I’m slowly beginning to think of David again.”
He thanked the services available in Dorset and the managers at the apartment block he lives in with his wife, for their support and help.