“My father built this house. Forty years ago, after he died, we bought it back. We don’t want to go.”
Charlie is loud, direct and fun.
His wife Jan has had dementia for a couple of years. And now that Charlie has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, staying in the house will have its challenges. But Charlie has his reasons.
“My father built this house over 60 years ago.
“He bought the land in ‘47 and built it himself in his spare time, on weekends. He was actually a cabinet maker. Years later, when mum died, I got married and moved away. And then when Dad died, I bought this house back. We wanted it back. We’ve been here ever since”.
Jan and Charlie married in their early 20’s. Charlie was a carpet cutter and layer. They soon had three children, and in his 40’s, Charlie moved to Qantas on a quality inspection team. “I became a leading hand with a team of 13 men. And I worked there for 22 years. I loved it.
“When I wasn’t at work, I was always working on the house.
We loved our house, and the garden, and always looked after it. I loved spending time in my back shed. And I used to love to travel. And for Jan, it was the house. She loved the home. That was her life. But I’m 84 in a couple of weeks. I’ve slowed right down. I can’t work on the house any more. After I retired, I used to love to teach ESL, but I’m cutting back on that now too.”
“I am still the best cake maker you've ever seen in your whole life!”
Charlie has brewed some coffee and produces a magnificent home-made fruit slice, covered in green icing. “You want some sugar? No? Ahh, go on. What’s wrong with you?” These days Charlie runs the home and does the cooking. He’s good company and full of good cheer. The slice is delicious. Jan, who has been sitting quietly in the lounge room, comes out and joins us. She chuckles at Charlie’s flow of jokes.
“We don’t remember how we first got Anglicare.
But they’ve been tops. It’s been about 5 years now. First, they came to the house, did a big inspection, and gave us an assessment. They said we need hand rails out the front, hand rails in the bathroom, steps fixed up, ramps out the back - all sorts of things. They made lots of changes to the house, so we could stay here. It was tops! And now that's all done. And it’s marvellous. Wonderful. We love them”.
Now Anglicare comes four or five days a week.
“They gave us housekeeping, they take Jan out for coffee, and it works out fine. On Wednesdays we waddle down to the shops. It's a 5-minute walk but now it takes us twenty! We do our shopping together, then they come and pick us up and bring us home with the shopping. Later in the week they’ll take Jan out for coffee again.
And every two weeks, Jim comes - he’s good. He spends an hour cleaning the house for us. We try and get out of his hair when we can. He’s really good. We love him too.
“We don’t tell them what to do. That’s not our way.
“We leave that to them. They come here and let us know what we need. Don’t get me wrong - we like our independence. But we let them look after us and let us know what we need. If there’s something we can’t do, or something we need, we say ‘help’. Really, all this is what keeps us in our home. And it works out really good”.
Thanks Charlie and Jan for sharing your story with us. Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.