Whitstable wife's anguish as dementia leaves husband of 63 years unable to recognise her

  • Ann Coyle describes how her life has changed now she cares for her husband full-time.

He's been married for 63 years but Roy Coyle has no memory of his wife Ann.

In fact he thinks she's his carer. It's a lonely life for them both. Roy's brain doesn't work and for Ann on her own all day, it can be a bleak existence.

She often feels lonely and there's a crushing sadness that dementia has stolen Roy from her, Ann says she will never stop caring for him: " My husband doesn't talk to me he just stares when I ask a question.

"I just sit here all day long on my own but I love him, so I look after him."

Ann devotes her life to Roy. Dementia has now stolen his dignity, he's incontinent, unable to converse, but for Ann it's very much 'for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death us do part.'

Roy's dementia is so advanced he needs round the clock care. This, a man who had nothing and built a business from scratch into a highly successful building firm with 150 employees, now needing to be put on the toilet.

The foreign holidays are all a memory now for Ann - who has agreed to speak to use as part of a special ITV Meridian programme exploring the vital role of carers across the region.

"I do practically everything.

"In the morning I put him on the toilet and change him and everything because he's incontinent. And then we come down and I make a cup of tea for him and he sits there while I do little bits and bobs, like feed the animals.

"Probably an hour and a half later, we go upstairs and I will get Roy washed and dressed, and then we'll come down and I give him breakfast. I get his cereal and I sit at the table and he can feed himself with a spoon."

Through the day Ann will knit while Roy stares out at the garden.

At lunchtime Ann will put the television on, sometimes going out with family, and then at bedtime she goes through Roy's night-time routine.

Through the day Ann will knit or read, while Roy stares out at the garden. Credit: ITV Meridian

"I have to take him to bed when it's bedtime because he doesn't know the time of day. I get Roy undressed, and then I put him into bed.

"He doesn't really know how to get into bed. So I make him sit on the bed, lift his feet in and tell him he's got to work down in the bed."

For Ann her whole life revolves around caring for Roy. She's lost her independence but she doesn't care as she says: "We look after 'em because we love 'em" but life for her is hard.

"Roy is dependent on me and It is very hard because I can't do anything without him. You know, he is like my shadow. He just follows me everywhere.

"Roy's like a small child, really. That's what he's gone back to, you know, because he just wants that sense of security. He wants to know I'm there for him. I haven't got a life because Roy depends too much on me."

Ann and Roy on their wedding day. Credit: ITV Meridian

Coping, without help, is something Ann just gets on with, but the heartbreaking thing is that Roy no longer recognises Ann as his wife.

"He only thinks i'm a carer after being married for 63 years." she laughs, but there's a touching sadness.

"It's very, very, hard that he doesn't know I'm his wife because I feel that, you know, you married, for better or worse, the issue usual vows.

"Sometimes it's hurtful, but then I know it's not Roy, it's the illness and so you have to accept it, you know, he's still there as a person, even though he's not, if you understand.

"Occasionally we can still laugh together. Sometimes he goes to try and tell me things and while he's trying to say it, he's forgotten what he was going to say. It's frustrating for him as well.

"It's hard to take sometimes, especially if the grandchildren have come and Roy doesn't even recognise them. I don't know if they understand. Our grandchildren, they still see grandad as a person."

The physical demands of caring day in, day out have been made harder after Ann fell and fractured her wrist. "When I first fell it was very very painful, I couldn't even manage to make sandwiches," she explains "I had to ask my daughter to come in and she has ill health too. It's just very hard, it has had a big impact on me.

"I mean, I love it and I don't mind caring, but your life changes. You haven't got any independence whatsoever. You've always got to consider the other person.

"I just feel so much older."

  • Ann says the couple still love each other.

There are memories - plenty of them - that help her get through the dark times. When they met, Ann and Roy were like many young couples - penniless and in love.

"When we married we didn't have anything," Ann smiles.

"I didn't marry him for money - it was love. When we first met he did an apprenticeship as a builder. In the end, he had his own business with 150 men. We had a lovely life, we've done lots of things."

And that's what makes it so difficult - seeing the man she loves deteriorate and who now see's her as his carer. It's harrowing for Ann watching Dementia take hold of Roy.

"I've said it before but I'll say it again, it's very hard. Very, very hard.

"I just sometimes need support to to believe that Roy still really loves me, but I still love him."

If you or your family are in need of support you can contact the following organisations.

Crossroads Care - 020 8943 9421

Carers UK - 020 7378 4999

Carers Trust - 0300 772 9600

Rethink - 0808 801 0525

Samaritans - 116 123


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