Caring for someone with a terminal illness

Val & Fred ' Interview 24

Age at interview: 69

Brief outline: Val's husband Fred was diagnosed with cancer in his kidney which could not be cured. Val describes him as an amazing man and she cared for him in his final years.

Background: Val is widowed and has three daughters. She works as an estate manager. Ethnic background' White British.

Audio & video

Val’s husband Fred was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1999. At the time Val remembers how Fred’s diagnosis was a real shock for them both. Fred had a kidney removed but his recovery period was prolonged because of previous heart surgery he had had. Two and a half years later they discovered that the cancer had spread to his other kidney and although they were able to remove part of his kidney they could not replace it due to his previous health issues.

From this point on everything changed in their lives; Fred had to have regular hospital check-ups and blood tests to evaluate his kidney function. Val describes how the care he required became constant and amongst other things, she helped him to shower, go to bed and take medication. Val did not feel she got enough help or information during caring for Fred and believes that it all seemed to be left to her.

About a year after the diagnosis Fred had to go on dialysis and Val describes this period as ‘horrendous’. Fred would be collected in the mornings and taken to the hospital renal unit and put on dialysis. Val was very dissatisfied with how the renal unit was organised. She describes how they were very dismissive and did not seem to listen to Fred’s concerns. As a visitor she felt very unwelcome on this unit; she wanted to be involved in the care and go into the room while he was on dialysis, but they would not allow her to do so.

Fred’s condition was deteriorating and Val describes how he started to behave out of character, being disagreeable, disorientated and confused. Later, after Fred had died, Val discovered he had also been diagnosed with vascular dementia but she was never told. Thinking back she discusses how, with this knowledge, his out of character behaviour suddenly made more sense to her.

After a difficult dialysis session, the doctors suggested that they should stop future dialysis and Val accepted this. At this point she knew he only had two or three days left to live and desperately wanted him to come home to die. Unfortunately they were unable to get him home in time and Val describes how Fred died on a busy hospital ward with lots of commotion around them and little privacy. She still feels very upset about this and believes more should have been done to provide a more peaceful and calm environment.

Val discusses how both Fred’s and her daughters have provided her with great emotional support after Fred’s death. She describes his funeral as, ‘amazing’ as there was between three and four hundred people there and they collected over £800 in donations for the Salvation Army, which will be used to make bibles and a flag in his memory. Before Fred died he had underlined a piece in his bible which Val happened to stumble across. This was read at his funeral and she describes how this was a great comfort to her. Caring for her husband really took its toll on Val’s finances and health which makes it more difficult to deal with his death. She advises others to ask and push for help, and not to run themselves into the ground as she feels she did.


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