Travel was a pastime my wife, Yvonne, and I always enjoyed even after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2013. We decided that rather than live behind closed doors we were going to embrace life to the full and for as long as we possibly could. So when we received an invitation to a wedding in Cape Town in 2017, my immediate reaction was to accept it. We loved South Africa, having visited it many times not just on our own but also with our children. We needed no excuse to go there as I have cousins who live in Johannesburg and Cape Town albeit many have been forced to leave over the past 40 years, seeking a more certain future in countries like Australia and England. And we always stayed with family in a suburb of Cape Town not far from the famous Alfred and Victoria Waterfront area and glorious beaches so I thought that Yvonne would cope in an environment which she knew well.
By 2017, however, she had become incontinent and I realised this would add a level of complexity and challenges to the long flight times in particular. I did my homework about how to prepare for the journeys and off we went. The first obstacle was Heathrow security where we momentarily got separated at the x-ray machines and I could see the panic on Yvonne’s face when she thought she was on her own. Having dealt with that issue the next stress factor became the noise level in the departure area and trying to find available disabled toilets so that I could help her because she couldn’t manage on her own. However these minor inconveniences paled into insignificance when she needed to go to the toilet on the plane and became stuck in the cubicle unable to open the door.
A member of the cabin crew managed to force the door from the outside to let her out and I think it was at this point, seeing her so very stressed, that I realized we would not be able to fly again after this trip. The wedding was lovely and the break did us both a lot of good. Arguably it did more for me than for Yvonne because I was surrounded by family who could help me with my caring responsibilities whilst it was evident that she struggled a great deal just by being out of her home environment and usual routine. Eighteen months later Yvonne was in a care home, doubly incontinent and with Alzheimer’s taking from her most of her capabilities and from me, my ability to be a 24 hour a day carer. I’m so glad we took that last holiday together.