Alzheimer’s diagnosis drives North Walsham carers to urge others not to delay in seeking medical help

Charlie with his match books. Picture: Norfolk Carers

Charlie with his match books. Picture: Norfolk Carers - Credit: Norfolk Carers

A cycle of struggle could have been broken years ago in a North Walsham household, if only a couple had only sought medical help earlier.

Sue and Charlie Bensley. Picture: Norfolk Carers.

Sue and Charlie Bensley. Picture: Norfolk Carers. - Credit: Norfolk Carers

Sue Bensley had been cared for by her husband Charlie for many years, as she suffers with ME, fibromyalgia, osteo-arthritis, back problems and is a wheelchair user.

However Mrs Bensley noticed a change in her husband's behaviour, but didn't contact her doctors until her husband left to drive into North Walsham and couldn't remember what to do with his car.

Luckily Mr Bensley managed to get home safely, and prompted the pair to seek medical advice which would ultimately reveal Charlie's Alzheimer's disease.

Mrs Bensley says that looking back, she wishes she'd acted sooner, as this wasn't the first time she'd had cause to worry: 'I wish I'd spoken out at least a year before.

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'There were several little things that made me wonder. Anxiety levels were raised. We began planning our golden wedding anniversary in 2015 for the following year. It was just going to be a small do but it was causing a lot of stress for Charlie and this was very out of character.

The 68-year-old continued: 'Charlie's also a big Norwich City fan and when Norwich went through a rough patch, it was really affecting him – much more than it would have normally. I'd never known him to get so frustrated.'

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Since Charlie's diagnosis, the pair have been working out how to support each other.

The couple have also had support from the town's Cameo Café at Furze Hill – which supports those living with dementia and their carers. It has provided Sue with a break and new faces for Charlie to interact with.

Mrs Bensley said: 'We complement each other.

'Some things I do for Charlie, some things he does for me. What I would say, is that if you have the slightest suspicion about a family member, act as soon as you can as there is a lot of help out there.'

The couple now have support from Alzheimer's Society as well as Norfolk Carers, which has provided the couple with a support worker, Murdo Alderton-Macleod.

Mrs Bensley said: 'Murdo came in the first three months of the diagnosis and he's just been a great person to talk to. He spent a whole morning here originally, so we've been very well served. He's been willing to answer any questions and has tried to take into account my own physical needs. Murdo seems to acknowledge the effect of the situation on both of us – it's not just about Charlie and his needs - he brings the caring role into perspective. I would encourage anybody to take whatever help is offered.'

Charlie is still keeping up with Norwich City FC - jotting down match results, and noting down who scored in each game– something which he started some 60 years previously and hasn't given up yet, 'I said I was going to stop but my grandson has encouraged me to carry on. I'll pass the books on to him when I finish.'

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