When life turned, Pat lost all her confidence. But just a year on, and she’s a new person.
Pat’s pretty relaxed and very low key, but she got a shock when her new husband Charlie explained to her that they were going to build a new home – with their own hands.
“We had been living in a garage. When he suggested it, I freaked out! But we did it together.” Eventually, with two children of their own, and seven grand children, it was the home they built their life in.
Pat and Charlie had a tough start.
Charlie’s family home was destroyed in the fighting during WWII, and Charlie came to Australia as a refugee, a displaced person. He was off to a good start when he met and married Pat 63 years ago. “We just got on,” says Pat simply. They made their home a couple of hours south of Sydney, and had wonderful years together as the family grew. Charlie worked hard and even though he arrived as a refugee, he worked for 36 years with the local county council, and ended up a senior manager.
When Charlie developed Alzheimer’s disease, Pat cared for him, in the home they built, for ten years.
“In the end I had to put him in a home. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I still regret it. But really I had no choice,” says Pat. 11 years later, Charlie died, and it was finally time to leave. “The house was too big for me on my own. It was time to go, I was too lonely.”
Sadly, everything changed for Pat.
She was on her own for the first time in nearly 50 years. She found a new place, smaller, and, as she jokes, “tried to keep out of trouble.” Things went well at first, Pat was still active and able to drive, and she began to adjust. But ill health intervened.
Following some serious surgery, and some issues with medication, she had a couple of falls and it was a big setback. “I became frightened. I wanted to stay in my home, I didn’t want to go into a nursing home. But I needed help. I was on a walker, I wasn’t thinking straight and couldn’t get my act together. I had panic attacks, I had lost my confidence. It wasn’t only my body – it was also my mind.”
Pat’s daughter contacted Anglicare.
“They were fantastic. They came in and took me on. They have been wonderful.” Anglicare now come six days a week, helping with shower and meals, appointments, trips out for coffee. And sitting in her lounge room, on a beautiful spring afternoon, Pat sums things up. “Sometimes we just sit and chat and have a coffee. And it means I can stay here, at home”.
Lynn-Marie is the RN who helped with the clinical assessments when Anglicare first met Pat. Lynn-Marie takes up the story. “Pat was so afraid and so unsure. She had lost all her confidence. But now – Pat is on the go – she’s busy thinking about things and making plans again. And for us, to see that transformation is just so rewarding. We’ve just been reviewing her plan, we’ve added another visit each fortnight – we just adjust things when we need to. Whatever’s needed.”
Pat is justifiably proud of herself.
“Lynn-Marie doesn’t know this, but I’ve lately been doing a kilometre and a half walk around the neighborhood. I’m going to try for 2kms next – I might wear my shoes out!” Laughing, we ask her what Charlie would think. “Charlie would say ‘you can’t keep her down. She might get knocked down, but she’ll climb the ladder back up’.”
Lynn-Marie is surprised, impressed and thoroughly delighted. “Pat’s the reason we do what we do.”
Thanks Pat for sharing your story with us. Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.