/case-studies/dulcie

Elder Families

Dulcie's Story | Wiltshire
Dulcie is 100 years old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for six months. We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.

Watch our video.

Living with Live-In Care

“My mother has never wanted to go into a care home. She has always wanted to be as independent as she can.”

Colin, Dulcie's Son

My mother has never wanted to go into a care home. She’s always wanted to be as independent as she can and has lived on her own since my stepfather died 35 years ago. A couple of years ago she had a two falls in quite quick succession. We had already started to put some care in place, just a few hours in the mornings and evenings, to make sure that mother was up and similarly to make sure she got into bed. But it was after the second fall, in which she broke her femur, that we started to think about full-time care. She was 99 years old.

“We were concerned that perhaps there were times when she wasn't having the best meal that she could have had. Since having full-time care her eating habits are vastly approved.”

We discussed care options with mother as we had to make a plan – and she eventually moved in with us. Sarah came to live with us six months ago and has quickly become part of the family. Our top priorities at the time were to ensure that mother was looked after, particularly from the point of view of being fed. She was still doing all her own cooking back then, but we were concerned that perhaps there were times when she wasn’t having the best meal that she could have had. Since having full-time care her eating habits are vastly improved.

“Sarah is there for her all the time, keeping her company and discussing things, which keeps my mother’s memory going and is generally good for her wellbeing.”

Sarah takes a lot of time with her, which is a great relief for us because she does not like being left on her own. Five minutes can feel like five hours for her, but Sarah is there for her all the time, keeping her company and discussing things, which keeps my mother’s memory going and is generally good for her wellbeing.

We’ve always stressed with any carer that they need to keep her active and not allow her to vegetate in bed, and Sarah does that brilliantly. Mother will often say, ‘I haven’t had enough exercise’, but the problem is that a few minutes later when you suggest a walk she says, ‘Oh I don’t feel like it now’. That’s where a little bit of clever persuasion sometimes helps. Sarah encourages her, when the sun’s out, to go into the garden and look at the flowers. She even offers to get her pruners out and start pruning – and often actually does.

Having a live-in carer you trust frees you up to live your life, and because Sarah is able to take care of everything and we have confidence in her, it removes any worry we may have when we go on holiday, for example. It’s reassuring that Sarah really cares and is committed to looking after my mother’s needs.

“Having a live-in carer you trust frees you up to live your life.”

We would definitely recommend Elder - the costs are reasonable compared with other care companies that we looked at, and they’re not making a vast profit at mother’s expense, which I think is important.

My own view on the future is that rather than be carted off to a home, the potential now to have live-in care is a hell of a benefit. The knowledge - now that we’ve seen how it works - that one can be cared for in one’s own surroundings when one gets older and perhaps needs a little help is wonderful.

“We would definitely recommend Elder - the costs are reasonable compared with other care companies that we looked at, and they’re not making a vast profit at mother’s expense, which I think is important.”

“This level of attention is unique to a live-in carer; you are working with someone one-to-one so you really get to know them.”

Sarah, Dulcie's Carer

On her 100th birthday Dulcie had two birthday parties, both of which I went to. One of them was here with her son Colin, and there were 40 guests. She really enjoyed seeing everyone and making conversation with them all day – even though she would turn to me afterwards sometimes and ask “Who is this person?”. Dulcie and I laugh a lot together, and I like that about us.

I’ve been working with her for six months, and from the beginning it was easy for me. She has a great sense of humour; before she turned 100 she said to me, “oooh, I feel tired, perhaps it’s because I’m getting old” and a short time after she said, “no, it’s because I am old!”

I had been working as a psychologist in Poland when I decided to change my life and come here. I chose to be a carer because I enjoy working with people, and Elder as a company pay well and treat me very well. Being a live-in carer also means that I also get regular breaks, so I can also go back home to see family and friends.

“I chose to be a carer because I enjoy working with people”

Dulcie is a kind person. When I go to see her before bed she’ll ask me if I have everything I need and if I’m alright, like she’s taking care of me. After all the time I have spent with her, I don’t consider that I am working any more, it’s more like I belong to this family.

Our relationship has grown over the months, because I was determined to know her better and made the effort to do that. She is very precise about what she likes, for example. When serving food, the plates have to be hot. These kinds of things might look little to some people, but if they aren’t done they will be a problem for Dulcie. And I think this is really about her character, not her dementia.

“After all the time I have spent with her, I don’t consider that I am working any more, it’s more like I belong to this family”

In the beginning we would speak a lot about her life, which has been extraordinary - she had lived in Burma and also once been marooned in a lifeboat with Colin when he was two years old for two weeks.

Nowadays our conversation is more about politics or the Great British Bake Off. We do talk about her family though – especially if we’re in her room, where she has pictures of her relatives – and also read magazines together and discuss fashion. Dulcie has always dressed well, and still does.

This level of attention is unique to a live-in carer; you are working with someone one-to-one and so you really get to know them and they in turn can be more confident and open up more about themselves.

Unlike working in a care home, I can dedicate myself to this person and she can feel someone is there that really cares for her. For me, being a carer is not just about being practical, cooking meals and putting them to sleep and so on, it’s about being able to see someone properly. This is important to me - because I work with a person, not a machine.

“Unlike working in a care home, I can dedicate myself to this person and she can feel someone is there that really cares for her.”

“Sarah is my carer, but she is also a friend, and she helps me to do everything I want to do.”

Dulcie, Care Recipient

I didn’t really have any concerns about getting older. I have been fortunate in that I knew that if I needed extra help I was able to get it and I’ve been very lucky in getting nice people, like Sarah, to help me. You really have got to get on with the person that is looking after you. Sarah is my carer, but she is also a friend, and she helps me to do everything I want to do. Now, because I’m so old I don’t do so much. But if I wanted to, say, hoover the floor, I would do it and Sarah wouldn’t mind.

I prefer to be able to do my own things and have what I want, whereas if you go to a care home you can’t do that, I shouldn’t think. I start my days with breakfast and usually read the paper, but I’ve never been a great reader, like my sister was. She had her head in a book all the time. I always said, when I get older I would read more, and actually only the other day a friend of mine asked “Have you started to read books yet?”, and I said well, I don’t think I have really.

“I prefer to be able to do my own things and have what I want, whereas if you go to a care home you can't do that…”

I do like to sit with Sarah and watch whatever’s on television though. I like to look at things that I used to go to that I can’t go to now, like the Chelsea Flower Show or horse racing.

I like to be independent and I was driving up until I was 98 when my license ran out. I thought, I haven’t had an accident so think I’d better stop now. I only gave up playing bridge about two or three years ago, because I haven’t got a car anymore, and my bridge partners are all much my age and a bit scattered nowadays.

Sarah is a good cook, but the food has got to be hot and the plate must be hot. It’s surprising how some people will put hot food on a cold plate - awful. Mind you, my father was potty about that as I am. I was brought up in a place where we had always had a cook, maid and everything and my goodness me, if a plate was cold there was trouble.

I still like my gin and tonic before lunch, and I have my whisky in the evening, and a glass of wine in the evening. I’ve had a gin and tonic everyday since I can remember. I mean there have been occasions when I couldn’t – I once spent 13 days in a lifeboat with Colin when he was only two, after our boat got torpedoed while we were travelling back from India in 1942, and well, of course, I couldn’t have my gin then! I think that’s one of the only times I haven’t.

“I still like my gin and tonic before lunch… I once spent 13 days in a lifeboat with Colin when he was only two, after our boat got torpedoed while we were travelling back from India in 1942, and well, of course, I couldn’t have my gin then!”

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