I am a public representative for Side-by-Side - the Patient and Public Involvement group for Research and Improvement. Having watched my husband loose his life to Dementia, I wanted to give something back, “do more” and get involved in research. Research in any field depends on patients and their families to improve methodology and studies.
Fit, fun-loving and living alone during lockdown
Hello, my name is Mary Ramsay and I live on the outskirts of Portsmouth. I'm a widow, having lost my husband to Dementia in 2015, and I have one son who is married with a daughter of his own.
In March, at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, I was categorised as being vulnerable as I am in the over 70’s category. The realisation hit me that I am statistically classed as an elderly person; this came as a shock, as I am a busy, fit, fun-loving and capable person, enjoying life whilst kidding myself that I am still 20!
In my life I’ve had some big bumps along the way, but I’ve overcome all of them and moved on. However, lockdown is a bump which is tough; there’s no easy solution, you just have to go with it, along with the rest of the country (in fact the rest of the world).
In normal times living with my own company is no problem, nobody to say “hello” to first thing in the morning is my routine. Each day I would know at some stage I’d interact with others. This may be whilst volunteering for my dedicated charity, going to the gym, attending support groups, or joining meetings/conferences/events for one of the organisations I support. Being isolated, there’s no guarantee that I will speak to anyone each day. I have to rely on my daily walk to utter a hello as I social distance from people passing by, whilst walking local pavements and admiring children’s artwork in support of our wonderful NHS and key workers.
I am lucky I can go out and that I have a garden, this is a luxury that those living in flats, perhaps far from their families, do not have and my thoughts turn to them when I hear birdsong or go out for a walk. Although I miss the hugs with my family and people who are dear to me, at least I can FaceTime with them (even though they are just a few miles away).
When lockdown started I set a goal for myself that each day would have a structure, and that various long-awaited tasks would be completed. I have a large garden and now, five weeks down the line, I am willing for the weeds to grow just so I can pull them up! Nearly all of my cupboards are tidy and lots of the clutter has been binned, or is ready for the charity shop when they re-open.
They say to only shop for essentials, and to go to the supermarket as little as possible. However, having failed to obtain an online shop, once a week I run the gauntlet and drive to my local Sainsburys for “oldies hour.” There is always a queue but once inside, swathed with a scarf around my face and wearing gloves, I follow the arrows in the aisles; one step forward, three to the side. “Strictly” has taken on a whole new meaning and even a small purchase of 48p at the in-store pharmacy has to be paid for using contactless. Once home, the process of wiping each item with disinfectant takes a bit more time; time that I used to have little of, but now have so much.
Keeping up appearances now means leisure trousers or shorts with a top. The high heels and glam are hanging in the wardrobe, waiting for an opportunity to wear them. Manicured nails are now in desperate need of attention, and are all differing shapes. My hair hasn’t stopped growing and it’s amazing what is hidden at the back of the wardrobe, long forgotten, and how it can be adapted to give a whole new look! (See pic of wig!)
The days of meeting friends and sharing a meal seem so far off in the distant future. Home meals are not quite the same, sitting with a tray on my lap and watching the daily press briefing, grasping for a glimmer of hope. Plus, lockdown is not guaranteed to be ended in six weeks for the vulnerable oldies! Everyday we are being told ‘stay home,’ but for someone who is very much used to being out in the community it’s the hardest thing I've ever done.
Clapping each Thursday for our NHS has opened up a new circle of friends with all of my neighbours, who in the past had been living their own busy lives. I love to be involved in events or projects no matter how small, but that (to a certain extent) has gone, and when someone said they were too busy to call, imagine how the rejection hit me. To stay positive is difficult; with a year that is vanishing away and holiday plans abandoned. Tell me, what is the answer?