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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
Living with Alzheimer's
Roland Boyes
Roland Boyes in 1992
A survey has shown the UK has the worst record for the number of carers of Alzheimer's patients who have to give up work to look after their loved ones.

Pat Boyes tells BBC News Online how she had to give up the teaching job she loved to nurse her husband through the disease.


Pat Boyes remembers noticing her husband Roland had started to forget words, or where he had put his keys or wallet.

At the time, he was the Labour MP for Houghton and Washington, and although Pat told him about her concerns, her husband did not seek medical advice.

"I was saying he should see a doctor. He said 'just because I've forgotten a few words - don't be ridiculous'."

Roland was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1995 aged 58, two years after his symptoms had first been spotted.


I think he knows it's me, but I think it might just be he knows it's somebody nice

Pat Boyes
He was still an MP, and Pat was faced with the difficult decision about whether to give up her job as a primary school teacher.

"I loved the job, but it was a decision I had to make."

Soon after he was diagnosed, Roland became part of a trial of Aricept, a drug which delays the progress of Alzheimer's, at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Hospital.

He later spearheaded a campaign which raised thousands of pounds for an imaging suite at the hospital.

Aggressive

The first two years were spent helping her husband fulfil his duties as an MP, and getting away for holidays.

But Roland had to stop taking Aricept after two years.

"He was having fits, so he had to stop. Then the horrible parts of Alzheimer's started.

"He was very ill, very violent and aggressive. But he had never been an aggressive man."

She said: "1999 was the bad year. We were stuck at home all the time.

"He was petulant and would stomp away from me.

She said: "He is very ill now. He is in the last stages of Alzheimer's. He is still at home but he doesn't walk and doesn't talk.

"He barely recognises me. I think he knows it's me, but I think it might just be he knows it's somebody nice."

'No circus act'

Pat, who looks after her husband, who is now 65, at their home in Peterlee, County Durham, added: "It is a very depressing situation, because you see this fun, brilliant beautiful man, and your sons see their father going through this.

"It's very demanding, and my social life has gone.

"I'm so tired when I've seen to Roland and got him into bed, I just want to sit in front of the TV.

"And I didn't want people to see him, I didn't want him to be a circus act."

See also:

20 Sep 02 | Health
18 Jul 02 | Health
08 Jul 02 | Health
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