Packing my bags I felt a mixture of emotions; excitement, sadness and anxiety – this would be my first holiday alone for many years. My husband Peter passed away in 2012 after a six year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Having always imagined our retirement years would be spent together, now I was facing them alone.
I chose a coach trip to a place Peter and I hadn’t visited before so I wouldn’t be overcome by any sudden memories. There were several of us travelling alone and I soon made friends. Going on holiday on my own was a big step but I’m so pleased that I did it, I had a lovely time. It was sad coming home to an empty house and not having Peter there to tell him all about it, but I suppose I’d got used to losing him over the years.
When Peter first began to show signs of Alzheimer’s I initially put them down to age. Things like not knowing where he’d put his money or bank cards despite them being in his back pocket. In the early stages, Peter had good days and bad days but as time went on I realised I was gradually taking over everything. I became more and more like a mother to him. It was heartbreaking to watch a man, my husband, who’d once been so capable deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes. He needed guidance with everything, had no concept of the value of money, and became increasingly forgetful and struggled with his words.
Eventually after one terrible weekend during which he became very aggressive, he had to be moved to a care home. This was a very stressful time. I felt guilty that the situation had reached this point as I’d always promised myself I’d look after him.
I’ve forced myself to carry on, try new things and take on new challenges.
I’ve had some time to adjust to being on my own but even though I knew the end was coming, it was still a terrible blow when Peter passed away. I’ve forced myself to carry on, try new things and take on new challenges.
Through my experience of Alzheimer’s disease I’ve been shocked to learn about the dreadful lack of funding for research to find new treatments. So I’ve signed up to be a media volunteer for the experts, Alzheimer’s Research UK, to tell my story. I would dearly like to see new treatments found to give hope to future generations and I’m pleased to be doing something to help. – I know Peter would be proud.
Now that I’ve been brave enough to go on holiday alone, I’m looking forward to the next one. Peter would be pleased to know I’m getting on with life and maybe one day soon I’ll have the courage to revisit some of the places we went together.
About the author
Theresa O’Dwyer became an Alzheimer’s Research UK media volunteer after her husband Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Peter lived with Alzheimer’s for six years, the majority of which Theresa cared for him at home. Since making the decision to speak publically about Peter’s life with Alzheimer’s, Theresa has taken part in several media interviews to raise awareness of the disease and of the charity’s pioneering dementia research.