Caring for loved ones with dementia can cause untold anguish for relatives as they see the person they knew slowly slip away.
But the harrowing trials of caring for his wife were made all the worse for one Tayside OAP, when his own health took a turn for the worst.
Paul Clough, a 69-year-old full-time carer says he “felt like bursting into tears” when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer.
Paul Clough looks after his wife Margaret, who suffers from dementia, at the home they share in Edzell.
He says her condition means she does not retain information and, with no other family nearby, Paul felt like he was dealing with his illness alone.
‘The centre has been a godsend’
He said: “I can’t praise the centre enough, it’s been so useful to chat because even though I’m married, I feel like I’m going through it on my own.
“My wife knows I’m ill, I have explained it to her, but she doesn’t retain it.
“She’s got no idea that I might be dead before her and her children live in England so I don’t have anyone else nearby to talk to.
“The centre has been a godsend for that, having someone to talk to who understands.”
Paul, originally from Yorkshire, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in July last year and underwent surgery in October to remove the cancer from his mouth.
‘You feel like crying’
However, a lymphoid burst in his neck, meaning he now has to undergo six weeks of chemotherapy and radium treatment, which started in mid-December.
He says he had no idea he was so ill before his diagnosis and thought he had bitten his cheek through the anxiety of caring for his wife, who has found lockdown and social distancing restrictions particularly difficult.
Paul said: “When someone tells you that you have cancer, you feel like crying. You wouldn’t expect that being a man, but it really hits you.
“I’m an optimist though, I don’t think I am going to die before my wife – my cancer is one which is good to treat and everything is very uplifting at Maggie’s and in the chemotherapy and radium departments.
“It’s a breath of fresh air because I have enough on my plate.”
As well as offering Paul emotional support, Maggie’s Dundee has helped him access funds and provided a comfortable place to unwind between treatments.
Due to current Covid restrictions, “drop-in” visitors to the centre must give prior notice of their arrival and provide track and trace details.
They are also asked to wear masks and follow sanitising and social distancing measures.
Karen MacKinnon, centre head, said the pandemic has not stopped the charity offering its usual services and that it is continuing to support around the same numbers of people as last year.
Keeping people connected
She said: “We have a lot of people coming in who are newly diagnosed with cancer, I get the feeling that service is running as normal even with all the changes.
“And we’re running our full programme of workshops and groups virtually, which has worked out well for those who live far away or who are shielding.
“It is a shame we’re not able to do the drop-in service, that is a loss, but our virtual groups have been going a long way to keeping people connected.”
A wide range of support
Those with cancer and their family members can arrange appointments with cancer support specialists at the centre, as well as psychologists and benefits advisors or use the library and quiet space.
And the centre’s online programme hosts workshops in a wide range of topics, including cooking and dietary benefits, mindfulness, stress management, sleep management and facilitate peer support groups.
For more information, visit Maggie’s Dundee website by visiting maggies.org