Hi,  I am a middle aged woman living in the north who is a volunteer in patient and public involvement, in particular research activities and projects.  Now and again I come across a piece of research which touches me profoundly, sometimes because I have had direct experience in the topic to be researched.. This was certainly the case when I recently saw an advert for involvement in a project entitled ‘When older people harm their family carers – Investigating the needs and experiences of family carers’.

But I am jumping ahead of my story. I spent Xmas 2015 with my best pal’s parents and enjoyed a lovely lunch with them. It was the first time I had joined them for the festivities so it was quite unusual, made more so in that it had a real french flavour and some fine wines to wash it all down. However, what was the most notable feature was that it was the first time my pal’s father did not recognise me – to him, I was very definitely ‘a stranger at the table’.

He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer;s Disease some years ago. A very smart man, beautifully presented and even today, is quick and clever – very proficient at crosswords and other puzzles. He had been a detective in his younger years and reached a very high level in the Police Force.

After Xmas I did not hear from them for a while. It therefore came as a shock to hear that he had suffered  two psychotic episodes and they were bad enough to make his wife call the emergency services. She feared for her own safety and had no other choice but to seek help. This was a momentous decision – she had cared for him at home for a long time, with limited support – my pal lives in France and travels over whenever she can. But her mother had been coping on a day to day basis with little assistance.

He is now in a residential care home and we are all making adjustments to our lives. I visit him on a Sunday. All our lives have changed . We still have happy times.