Picture a large bright room, with the sun slanting through the window on to a display of pictures on the wide window-sill and walls. Two of the pictures have pride of place; a photograph of abride and father at a wedding, and a grandfather holding a new baby. Standing at an angle a few feet into the room is an artist’s easel, holding a painting in progress. You might think this is a studio, but isn’t – it’s a room in our Evington care home, and the resident is art teacher and book illustrator, Tony Berkeley.
Tony had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia very late in the illness, and when he came into the home he was very poorly and in a wheelchair. His wife Sue had been told he had only around three months to live. "That was four plus years ago," she said then, "And I was exhausted. I wanted a Christian home for Tony at the end of his life, and I felt this place was so peaceful. I hadn’t viewed it as long term. But from the minute we got here the care, the support, and the spiritual support – he’s just turned around! Nothing’s different in his brain, but he’s improved dramatically. People think I’ve made it up, because of the transformation. He’d stopped painting, but (waving her hand towards the pictures) he’s an artist, and all these are Tony’s work."
Except for the two photographs in the prominent position on the window sill. One is a of Tony’s daughter in her wedding dress and carrying her bouquet, smiling into his eyes at her wedding. It was an occasion no-one thought he’d be able to attend, but Evington home staff and Sue Berkeley made special arrangements, including a carer coming in an hour before her shift began to move the buttons on his best shirt because he’d gained weight. The other is of Tony holding his grandchild, 12 months’ later.
Right to the end, Tony was able to live a fulfilled life. Sue came in to spend time with him every day, and found strength and wisdom and faith in talking to other carers. She said, "It helps to feel the love and support of not only the staff but other carers, who can feel like a surrounding family when the walk seems solitary and the road rocky."
This is the kind of care all our homes offer – fulfilled living in a loving Christian family atmosphere. It’s heart-rending to read that every day in the UK older people are dying neglected and often alone waiting for their social care to begin. One and a half million have had their applications for care turned down by their Local Authorities, because they simply don’t have the funding for it. You can read more about the state of social care in a BBC report.
It’s a time for praying that the Government will introduce a plan that will properly fund social care. Let’s remind the Lord of His promise in Isaiah 46:4, that we may see the fulfilment of this promise in better funding of care for those who need it.
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