With great thanks to Julia Jones for today’s guest post on John’s Campaign, which is asking hospitals to commit to allowing carers to be with their loved ones at any time, and not just strict visiting hours. Julia cares for her mother June who is living with dementia, and speaks movingly about Dr John Gerrard who the campaign is named after. You can keep up to date with the latest developments in the campaign by following them on twitter @JohnCampaign
Tommy’s love for his mother Joan Whitelaw – and his grief at her slow dying from vascular dementia – changed his life and now he is changing the lives of others. “You can make a difference” he says. We can’t cure dementia but any one of us has the individual power to make life either better or worse for the people and families who are struggling with this cruel illness.
My friend Nicci Gerrard’s love for her father changed her life. Dr John Gerrard had Alzheimer’s but was coping okay in his own home, with the support of his family, until he was admitted to hospital to have his leg ulcers treated – and his family were not able to visit, because of hospital restrictions. “My father entered hospital articulate and able, he came out a broken man,” wrote Nicci after her father died in November 2014. She made a pledge that she would campaign to persuade hospitals to change their rules and allow carers to be with the people they love whenever they are needed, 24/7 if necessary.
My mother June has Alzheimers and vascular dementia but she is 91 and still living. Of course her life is not easy – there are so many things she can’t do any more and she’s often confused and frightened. But we manage to have good times when I take her to a riding stable or onto the river in a boat. I am determined that she will never suffer alone in hospital as John Gerrard suffered. I knew him. He was a good man, a caring man.
So I’m working with Nicci on John’s Campaign which is how I met Tommy and heard his story and the story of Joan Whitelaw. And I told him the story of John Gerrard and June Jones to add to all those other stories of grief and loss and bravery and the wish to make things better.
Thank you Tommy for giving me this opportunity to tell people about John’s Campaign. You are travelling the country making a difference. We haven’t reached so far – particularly to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.. The Observer newspaper is going to set up a website telling people which are the compassionate hospitals where carers are made welcome. Too late for John Gerrard and Joan Whitelaw but maybe in time for my mum, June Jones? It’ll open fully on July 26th 2015 – with a list of the first ten hospitals. Here’s the link http://www.theguardian.com/society/series/johns-campaign. We’ll be adding hospitals everyweek after that – by Novemeber 2016 we want every Trust in the country on that list.
If you’re reading this and you’re working in a hospital that lets families stay with their loved ones, could you please get in touch @JohnCampaign or by email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your good practice on the Observer website? But if you’re in a hospital that shuts people out when their love is most needed – please can you begin persuading for change?