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Carer describes watching dementia slowly take hold of wife as campaign is launched in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 19:47 25 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:51 26 January 2017

Dave Gudgeon, of Stoke Holy Cross. Picture by Nicholas Carding

Dave Gudgeon, of Stoke Holy Cross. Picture by Nicholas Carding


The agony of watching a loved one slowly succumb to dementia has been movingly described by a loving husband - on the day of a campaign-launch to make Norwich a ‘dementia friendly’ city.

Dave Gudgeon, 80, of Stoke Holy Cross, described the sadness he felt at watching Irene Gudgeon, his wife of 27 years, deteriorate over four years from the condition.

She died aged 76.

“It was very sad to see this very competent woman disappear in front of you,” he said.

“The first symptom was when she got lost in Norwich on the way to the Virgin Lounge - a walk she had done many times.”

He went on to become a full-time carer for her.

“Caring for someone with dementia is a 24/7 job,” he said.

“You have got to do the washing, shopping, ironing, and cleaning. As the dementia increases many people become incontinent and so you find yourself up twice a night to change bed clothes and wash the sheets.

“A person with dementia can get a cup out of the cupboard and put it back in the oven or toilet. You can’t leave them on their own because they might want a cup of tea and put a kettle in the microwave.

“My wife just gradually faded away.”

His comments came at the launch of the bid to make Norwich one of the first dementia friendly cities in the UK.

Representatives from organisations, charities, and businesses in the city were at the event - with their pledges exhibited at the Forum.

The aim is to achieve the status by March 2018.

Richard Marks, the Sheriff of Norwich, officially launched the campaign, and the event was organised by Age UK Norwich - which is leading the campaign.

Susan Ringwood, Age UK Norwich’s chief executive, said: “This is a milestone for people who have been working on improving the lives of people living with dementia.”

Mr Gudgeon also read a poem at the event which he wrote about his wife when she was living with dementia.

For more information on the campaign and how to get involved email

The poem in full - entitled ‘Irene’ by Dave Gudgeon (2014)

Irene? Yes she’s still there.

Though a little harder to find now than once she was.

Her make-up, whilst still religiously applied each morning,

a little less well done, sometimes perhaps too dark or maybe mask-like, the edges not quite toned in right.

But, with a little help, she is still smartly dressed.

Does she know me? Yes, I think she does.

Does she believe she is the wife I love so much and have done for so long?

Of that I’m not so sure.

Gone have her previous interests… reading sewing, knitting… activities that once helped to define her.

The children and grand-children’s names are harder now to drag from the ravaged recesses of her mind.

As is where she lives and the fact that she has lived there for many years.

The questions, repeated many time, the memory of having been asked them lasting but scant moments.

Like a slowly sailing ship, disappearing into a bank of fog, dementia is gradually stealing her memories away…..

….So sad to watch a lifetime winding down in such a way, and sadder still, the knowing that the outcome is inexorable.

But for now, we can still enjoy moments of laughter and closeness, with lots of kisses, which may once have been passionate, but, though still loving, are now the kisses of a child for its parent.

So, Irene? Yes, my girl’s still there, somewhere, deep inside, and I will be there for her, for as long as I am able.

For I love her dearly.

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