“If I’d known then what I know now!” – Making a care choice for a loved one


“If I’d known then what I know now!”

How often have we said those words, and when it comes to caring for a loved one this desire to know more can be even more vital.

How can you be sure that your loved one has the best care possible, whilst ensuring that you, the carer, still have a life to lead?

Fred and Sheila Varden, who lived most of their lives in Greater Manchester, found that their recent move to a local rest home in Lytham St Annes has enabled them to achieve this difficult balancing act to perfection.

Fred explained that, almost 30 years ago, Sheila developed early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the tragically young age of 41. He became her primary carer and they have shared a journey of love, devotion, worry and frustration – all too familiar to those of us who find ourselves in a similar situation.

Fred says, “Over the past 30 years Sheila has battled on bravely and I looked after all of her needs during this time. But as her illness progressed our lives have changed dramatically. For the past three years, it has meant that we lost control of our lovely life together. We had to work around the carers and other health professionals who were constantly calling to the house. It didn’t feel like our home anymore and after a while, it became quite depressing.”

Also, Fred had become a writer. He explained “Two years ago, to relieve the tension I suppose, I began writing poetry and to my surprise I really enjoyed it. So I started to perform my poems and published them in a book ‘Poetry Gold.’ The book raised £2000 in support of Radio Wishing Well and Parkinson’s UK. My CD ‘Is there a Poet in the House?’ raised £600 towards another charity ‘Mummy’s Star.’ My charity work gave me the opportunity to meet Princess Anne, which was a huge thrill.”

But as Sheila’s illness progressed it became increasingly difficult for Fred still to pursue his interests and at the same time to care for Sheila’s increasingly complex needs.

The solution came in an unexpected way.  Fred commented, “Sheila had lost her mobility and we were no longer able to have holidays. We had loved staying at The Grand Hotel and the Clifton Arms on the Fylde Coast, but these hotels were no longer suitable for us.  So we decided to combine care with a holiday in Lytham St Annes, staying for respite care at Lakeview Rest Home’s ‘The Moorings.’ It was perfect.”

It can be difficult to find a rest home which is able to cater for the diverse needs of the disabled, as well as the very different requirements of their partner/carer. It can be heartbreaking when couples are forced, by circumstance, to live apart: one perhaps in the family home, and the other in a rest home. But rest homes such as The Moorings can offer a solution.

Fred continued, “We loved our respite stays, visited six times, and after doing the maths we decided to ‘take the plunge,’ sell our house and move permanently to The Moorings. We were very surprised at the cost, which is comparable to the running of a house, but without the responsibility and stress of all that goes with that.”

It has changed both of their lives. Sheila now receives the skilled 24-hour care that she requires, but still has her devoted Fred by her side. And as for Fred – he has now resumed life as ‘Rick: the Urban Poet.’

He added, “Moving here to The Moorings has restored the freedom to enjoy life one more. Sheila too is happier – she receives excellent care and no longer feels worried or guilty about my quality of life.

I have the opportunity to visit and write about all the local beauty spots to be found on the Fylde in Lancashire. I have become involved in the wonderful arts scene, for example, the differing local poetry groups. It is lovely to chat to the very friendly people I meet, and even, as Rick: the Urban Poet, to perform my poetry at local pubs and wine bars.

He added, “To those who, like ourselves, maybe at a crossroads in life, I would certainly recommend The Moorings and encourage them to try it for themselves by staying for a care holiday.

The final words of our local poet: The Moorings is “A home in the community, the community in the home’.

The Moorings is one of the four establishments of Lakeview Rest Homes. Others, all newly renovated, include traditional living at Rosewood Lodge and also Lakeview Lodge and Newfield Lodge, both of which offer specialist care for those suffering from dementia.


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