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My Ivy Story

This content was taken from the Ivy House Variety Musical Performance held on 19 May 2019 at The Birley Centre, Eastbourne.

Hello I am Wendy McKevitt and this is My Ivy Story.

Jane invited me to speak to you today, to give you a little insight into the special world that is Ivy House.

Richard, my lovely husband, was diagnosed 9 years ago in 2010 at the age of 60, with Parkinson’s disease and then 4 years later with related Parkinson’s dementia and Vascular dementia.

I am sure many of you will recognise the sequence of events that I am about to describe next. Opening the fridge door and finding odd things on the shelves, in our case it was the kitchen roll! Forgetting a longstanding friend’s name, not being able to remember what happened 20 minutes ago, let alone yesterday, being unable to read the newspaper and retain the information, and eventually finishing your loved one’s sentences for them and so the list goes on.

Next is the Doctor’s surgery and then the wait for an appointment with the consultant. Worse still is the diagnosis, the knowing looks, the numerous sheets of paper with website details and then eventually the door. And then you some how arrive home, utterly shell shocked, left to your own devices and completely on your own!

BUT, I am a great believer in fate and I don’t know what it was that made me switch TV channels one evening, 7 years ago, and stumble across a very moving documentary called Dementiaville. I only know that I sat there absolutely spellbound listening to this inspiring woman and her take on living with your loved ones who have dementia.

It was even more fateful when I started to recognise Ivy House and the places that Jane was travelling to in support of the families that she was helping. Ivy House was next door to my dentist’s surgery and it was Eastbourne, my home town!

It is fair to say that I was starting to realise that Richard and I, and James our son, needed support going forward. So on my next dentist’s appointment, I popped in to find out a little more about this interesting house.

It really was quite revolutionary, people were pottering in the garden, others inside were busy making craftwork, a couple of ladies were flower arranging, some gentlemen were upstairs playing pool and quite a large group were singing at the top of their voices in the room next door accompanied by a lovely lady on the piano.

There was a homely smell emanating from the kitchen and I was offered a hot drink and a comfy seat and then Dinah actually sat down with me and listened, and talked and listened a bit more!

On my next visit with Richard we got to meet Jane and it is fair to say that Rich wasn’t totally won over. He wasn’t sure about attending Ivy House, as he didn’t know what he would be doing there. Then Jane suggested that he might like to start in the kitchen and he could cook and do whatever he liked, even make a mess and not have to clean up afterwards. So he gingerly went along for his first session and met Leanne the cook, who he was horrified to learn was a vegan, so it then became Richard’s sole mission in life to convert her back to meat!

I started to attend the support group meetings once a month and sat next to Michele and Julie, two other younger wives and together we told our stories, laughing and crying simultaneously at the things that had happened in the previous 4 weeks. No holds barred, and no one judging us for being honest about our feelings and our fears.

Meanwhile, Richard had settled into a routine at Ivy House, cooking with Leanne and then spending quite a lot of his time upstairs with Jane in her office, where he was really excited to learn that Jane was opening a hotel.

Well, as an ex hotelier and director of some of the most prestigious hotels in the UK, Rich was off and firing on all pistons. He met the estate agent, had copies of the floor plans, told the architect exactly what was required in the bedrooms, bathrooms and reception areas and then scolded Jane for not buying big enough premises to make a decent profit, and as a consequence he would be investing personally in her project and advising her forthwith!

He loved the fact that he was back in his old world and this was all made possible by the unique training and understanding that Jane has and subsequently instils in all of the exceptional team at Ivy House.

For nearly 2 years, we were supported by Jane, Steve, Dinah and Amanda 6 days a week. Jane also spent valuable time with James, who by now was entering his final year at University, helping him to understand what was happening to his Dad and explaining that we, as a family, needed to enter into Richard’s world as he could no longer stay in ours. It was our mantra and it definitely served us well.

In closing I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to Jane and her team for easing the path for us and everyone else at Ivy House. YOU are our light at the end of the tunnel!

And for everyone in the audience today, please take home this Ivy message and share it, so that others can learn and benefit from this outstanding establishment.



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