Care wrangle has torn Sunderland couple apart after 65 years

They were childhood sweethearts – but a care wrangle has torn this Sunderland couple apart after 65 years

Florrie Graham, with a photograph of her wedding day in June 1946. She is apart from her husband Jos for the first time in 66 years.Florrie Graham, with a photograph of her wedding day in June 1946. She is apart from her husband Jos for the first time in 66 years.

Published on Monday 10 September 2012 11:56

INSEPERABLE throughout more than 65 years of marriage, an elderly couple have been left heartbroken after being forced to live apart after a wrangle over care funding.

War veteran Joseph Graham, 92, and his wife Florence, 90, are both devastated that she is not being allowed to move into the same care home as him, despite suffering from dementia.

The pair met as children growing up in the same Deptford street and later became teenage sweethearts.

Since then the only time they have been apart is when Joseph was serving with the army during the war and when Florence had to go into hospital to give birth to one of their four children.

When Florence’s condition deteriorated earlier this year, the pair moved from their Alnwick Square home, in Farringdon, where they had lived for 53 years, to a sheltered accommodation home, in Silksworth’s Tom Urwin House where Joseph looked after his wife until he became ill himself about eight weeks ago.

Doctors diagnosed prostrate cancer and Joseph, who also suffers from diabetes, is now so ill he needs medical care and is in St Mark’s Nursing Home, in Millfield.

But, despite there being two beds in his room, Sunderland City Council’s social services say they won’t provide the funding for Florence to move into the home with him.

The couple’s son and three daughters, who are sharing the care of Florence because they say she can’t be left alone for her own safety, are devastated their parents are having to live apart at this late stage of their lives.

Daughter Eileen Robson, 55, who lives in Seaburn, said: “It is so heartbreaking, because they have never been apart. Dad is so devastated and cries because he wants mam with him. They are still so loving towards each other, when we take her to see him they just kiss and hug and he sits holding her hand.

“It is just so sad. We don’t know how long they have got, but we just want them to be together for whatever time they have left.”

Son Paul Graham, 59, who lives in Moorside, said social services are offering for carers to visit his mum in her home four times a day for tasks such as washing, dressing and providing meals.

But, he said: “That must cost quite a bit, so why can’t they use that money to pay towards the nursing home costs? As a family we would be willing to try to meet some of the costs so mam and dad can be together.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, said: “Mr and Mrs Graham and their family are being supported by the council through this very difficult time of illness and separation.

“We fully understand why Mr and Mrs Graham wish to be together, and we always try to help people stay together in their own homes for as long as possible.

“Mr Graham’s needs are now being met with the support of a nursing home following a stay in hospital.

“At the same time we have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to maintain Mrs Graham’s independence and to avoid her needing permanent care while she is able to live at home with support, and also be helped to spend time during the day with her husband.”

Alan Patchett, director of Age UK Sunderland, said that the charity did generally support the Council’s policy.

“It does happen from time to time and is always very sad. It is a really difficult situation for all concerned.

“It’s been policy in Sunderland for a long time, which we do support, because that is generally what older people want.

“They want to live independently and they want to live at home, but they don’t want to go in to care.

“It’s sad when this situation arises and one partner has to go into care, leaving the other partner behind.

“I don’t think there are any easy answers to this situation.”

http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/

3 Responses to Care wrangle has torn Sunderland couple apart after 65 years

  1. Liz R says:

    Shame on Age UK Sunderland, they should be supporting the couple for what THEY want, not what they or the Council think they should have… a husband and wife who take their wedding vows seriously… what about their Human Right to a family life -e.g. their being able to live as husband and wife?

    I think the family have more sense than anyone, I can’t think of any reason why the money from the council for her care, and the money that the family have offered to make up the difference can’t be used to make sure the couple are together… it is not as though they would be taking up two rooms. And as the gentleman has demnatia, wouldn’t it make it easier for him to be looked after if he had his wife by his side making him feel less alone
    and isolated?

    Maybe the Council think they will save money in the long run when the couple die earlier than they might from the stress and grief of being deliberately parted after over 60 years together.

  2. Jackie Brook says:

    How utterly sad-How disgusting that Social Services seem to think this somehow ok?

    “At the same time we have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to maintain Mrs Graham’s independence and to avoid her needing permanent care while she is able to live at home with support, and also be helped to spend time during the day with her husband.”

    They want to be with each other and no one has the right to separate them-Prisoners are treated better!

  3. janey says:

    Have they thought of Continuing Care at home ?
    My father has dementia and we have a live in carer with him and my mother at their home.With Family also visiting everyday. They also married in 1946 so completely understand where the family are coming from. We have just employed awake night carers as well, most of this funded by the Social Services.We couldn’t get Continuting Care but its sounds as if this would be opossible for their Dad.

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