Eric’s Royal Air Force Flying Log Book stays with him at all times. It frames his epic memories that he shares with everyone today.
War creates memories and traces that are hard to erase and loose by those who have experienced it. Perhaps this reflects their emotional state and sharpens perceptions to momentous events.
His wife and carer, Hazel, tells her story sixty years later.
As a boy at the start of WW2, Eric as a schoolboy joined the Air Cadets with the aspiration to become a pilot. He enlisted into the Royal Air Force to become a pilot but trained as an air gunner on Lancaster Bombers.
Etched in his memories are amazing stories and adventures. Perhaps these glorify the military and ignore pain and suffering. The story of war is not only about winning battles and campaigns. For millions upon millions of people it is about pain, misery and suffering.
Demobbed and back in Civvy Street, Eric found work as a photographer’s assistant. In search of more opportunities, he went to night school in Guildford. With qualifications in engineering, Eric worked with Dennis, the fire engine manufacturer in Guildford. Later he became a British Rail track engineer.
Today, in frail health, Hazel helps in all his independent living skills. Eric is reliant upon his twenty-four hour a day carer for feeding, bathroom routines and dressing. Five mornings a week, a paid assistant dresses and washes Eric.
Aged ninety years, Eric has major operations for stomach cancer, a broken hip and a failing heart. Dementia is his most debilitating condition makes caring more difficult.
In the age of austerity, the question for social care and health services, is about provision? With increasing numbers of people with the condition new practices are essential. How do you improve long-term services to prevent the carers becoming ill? The challenge relates to the high cost of residential care.
The weakness of the system at present is the total dependence upon family carers. There needs to be better community support.
A major weakness with this model is the focus on personal care and household tasks. Hazel's legacy of caring outcomes raises major questions. There has been no expert advice, guidance or training on handling dementia.
The community-based provision is bankrupt and bereft of expert support. In the context of a progressive condition the patient and the carer's health worsens.
Dementia's progressive nature impacts upon memory and cognitive functioning. The quality of care and community provision is an important feature to critically review.
Hazel is a typical Catch-22 scenario that is being played out around the world.
The strongest recurring memory emerging from conversations with Eric are his memories of military service with the RAF. Dementia has eroded everything else.