Angie lived opposite Richard for 16 years in a quiet cul-de-sac in south Bucks. When Richard was diagnosed with a terminal lung condition last year, Angie supported her friend and neighbour to stay in his home of 73 years. But she says she couldn’t have done it without the Rennie Grove nurses, who visited Richard at home and provided specialist care and support for the last five to six months of his life.
“Richard led quite a reclusive life. He’d lived in his bungalow, previously his mum and dad’s home, since he was three years old. He never married and he had no TV, preferring to listen to Radio 4. He didn’t have visitors but he would come round to our house for a piece of cake and a cuppa now and again. He would sit for about 10 minutes with us – but then would be keen to get back to his solitude.
“He’d worked as an engineer – a lathe turner. He was such a knowledgeable man and could fix anything. He’d always say ‘leave it with me for a few weeks and I’ll see what I can do’. Whatever it was would always be handed back to us in perfect working order by the following day!
“Richard loved motorbikes and had competed successfully at Brands Hatch and other world-class venues. He was so modest – such a gentleman in all senses of the word – that he’d never talk about his wins.
“Despite having to have a lung removed as a child, he was very fit – a keen walker, cyclist and swimmer. He belonged to a walking and cycling club and would cycle around 100 miles in a day.”
A couple of years ago, Richard was diagnosed with bronchiectasis, which made his one remaining lung more vulnerable to infection. He had to stop all his sport - and then Covid struck.
At high risk of infection and serious respiratory complications should he contract the virus, Richard decided to shield. Angie rang him regularly and cooked him meals which she’d leave outside his front door for him to collect. But he deteriorated suddenly and needed a two-week stay in hospital. When he was discharged back home, with a care package in place, he agreed that his carer, Cindy, and Angie would both visit daily.
“I think the stay in hospital must have been very hard for him,” says Angie. “He much preferred to be at home, in his own space, where he felt safe.”
Angie had finally plucked up the courage to ask Richard if he’d like her to have lasting power of attorney (LPA) for his health and finances. He readily agreed, which left Angie wishing she’d asked sooner. “It feels like a difficult subject to bring up,” she explains, “but it really shouldn’t be. Everyone should have an LPA in place; we never know what’s round the corner.”
It can take at least two months for the LPA to be officially registered – and Richard’s came through too late to be of any help to him or Angie.
“It arrived the week he died,” says Angie. “I was still able to support him, but it was more complicated without the official documentation. Thank goodness the Rennie Grove nurses were so proficient in managing all the correspondence with the healthcare professionals.”
As Richard’s condition worsened and his prognosis became terminal, his GP referred him to Rennie Grove.
“He didn’t want to be an inconvenience but neither did he want to go back to hospital!” says Angie. “And no matter how poorly he was, he always greeted the nurses with a smile, did his best to remember their names and was always so polite.
“The Rennie Grove nurses arranged for just in case medication – drugs he might need urgently to alleviate his symptoms – to be stored in his home. They liaised with the GP and organised everything. They took all that worry away from me. I was his neighbour and his friend and I wanted to help and support him – but I didn’t want to have to make decisions about whether or not he needed to go to hospital – especially when I knew he desperately didn’t want to.
“I know the nurses were such a comfort to him. They would come whenever we called – sometimes in the early hours of the morning – and administer the meds he needed to help with his breathlessness. Then he could rest and sleep and always woke up feeling better. They were also at the end of the phone to give reassurance and advice. That gave me and Cindy the confidence to help him too. Cindy provided all his personal care. She was amazing and went above and beyond to make sure he was OK, but always knew she could call the nurses if she had any concerns.
“It was an honour to support Richard and a privilege that he trusted me to do so. I really liked him and I’m really pleased I was able to do it. The Rennie Grove nurses made it so much easier in so many ways – and gave Richard the care and support he needed to live the last few months of his life the way he wanted to.
“A healthcare assistant from the charity helped me apply for carer’s allowance and I decided to donate that to Rennie Grove. They change lives and they’re there for all of us. It’s an amazing service in our local community.”