Dr John Gerrard was a doctor and a business man, and diagnosed with Alzheimers in his mid seventies. It was a slow decline, that sped up when he was ill or upset, for ten years. Then, at the start of February 2014, he went into hospital. He had infected leg ulcers which weren’t responding to antibiotics. The hospital had a norovirus outbreak which meant visitors weren’t allowed at all. He was there for five weeks.
John went in strong, mobile, smiling, able to tell stories about his past, to work in his garden and help with things round the house. He was able to feed himself, to keep clean, to have a good kind of daily life. He came out skeletal, immobile, incoherent, requiring 24-hour care and barely knowing those around him.
His family are sure that if he had not spent that time alone, without them, he would not have descended into such a state of deep delirium. Having someone with you - someone who you love, who you know, whose face you know (be they your carer, your family, your friend, your lover) - helps keep you tied to reality, to life, to sanity.
John died in November 2014. His story, however, is still repeated. Far too many people die cut off from the people who care for them. Far too many places have dangerously over-restrictive policies (both predating and during the present pandemic) preventing people from being with people who need them.
In the wake of his death, John’s daughter, Nicci Gerrard, cofounded John’s Campaign with Julia Jones, whose mother, June, also lived well with dementia (both Alzheimer’s and vascular) for many years before her death in 2018. John’s Campaign is June’s Campaign, is Everyone’s Campaign, for none of us should be blocked from our best, most special friends, family or carers.