In support of Dementia Awareness Week last week and to spread the word of the condition, Gillingham couple, Brian and Anona Port shared their story of over 60 years together and how they manage to live with dementia.
Brian and Anona met in 1952 in Canterbury, where they both lived. At the time, she was aged 16 and he was 22, Brian laughs as he recalls his memory of their first date together.
“I turned up to pick her up for our date at the cinema and she had these huge flat shoes on, I suppose because I was short! I remember thinking, blimey her feet are huge!”
They had their date at the cinema but Anona didn’t trust Brian completely at first, “She was convinced I was married, because I was six years older.” He says, “I had to take her to meet my mother to prove I wasn’t!”
After four years, the couple married in Canterbury. They spent their young days sightseeing in the countryside on Brian’s motorbike, despite Anona’s parents’ banning her from riding it. “They never did find out,” Brian smiles.
In her younger days, Anona was an impressive accomplished hairdresser, painter and seamstress. The couple went on to have three daughters, Nicola and Deborah and they now have five grandchildren too.
In January 2014, Anona moved into Rogers House in Wigmore after suffering multiple bad falls backwards and being diagnosed with dementia.
“It came on gradually at first,” Brian recalls “it was a huge shock to me, as like many people, I didn’t really know anything about dementia. We managed ok at first, we could still take walks and enjoy strolling in the garden but her health declined quickly and I found myself unable to cope alone.”
Brian visits Anona every day at Rogers House and despite struggling with her deteriorating condition; he has found the staff of Rogers House to be a huge support for both of them.
“The staff here have been my rock over the past 18 months and they are so good to Anona, I come in every day and everyone tells me to have a rest but I can’t leave her.
“We can’t do much together these days but I still like to sit with her, hold her hand and sometimes I sing to her too. I just couldn’t be without her, she’s so precious to me.”