When I visit the Raabes at their home, Edwin meets me at the door.
Patricia then emerges from inside the house and greets me warmly, taking my hand in hers.
She is every bit the gracious hostess, asking me if I had any problem finding my way, offering me a drink and leading me to the dining table.
Then she says, ‘Now what was I just going to say? I hate how I forget.’ And then, in response to another question, ‘it went away, it just went.’
I am reminded of her slowly worsening Alzheimer’s disease.
Pat tells me she’s ‘with it most of the time’.
“I feel I can remember past things and I still have enough in me that I haven’t got to go to that level… of care,” she said.
Ed, whose manner is calm and patient, says they are managing at the moment.
“It’s something you get used to. You’ve got to live with the sorts of problems that Patty’s got,” he said.
“She had to hand in her car license, she can’t drive a car anymore. She’s been taken off the electoral role… things like that. But apart from that it’s quite manageable at the moment.”
Throughout my time with her, I am struck by her lucidity about some things and her complete lack of memory about other things.
‘I don’t like dementia.’
The Raabes, both in their 70s, have been married for 53 years and have three adult children.
When she was younger, Pat was a busy working mum. As well as looking after her family, she managed a busy medico-legal psychiatrist’s practice and enjoyed her work. She also had an active social life and a wide circle of good friends.
But in 2012, Pat was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then the condition has progressed slowly and steadily.
“I don’t like dementia. It affects me remembering things. But I’m ‘with it’ a lot of the time,” she said.
“It also affects me being spaced out and not knowing anything for 12 hours or something, and that freaks me out. I don’t know who I am.”
She hates losing her memory and she hates the loss of control.
“I hate it when I don’t remember. I’m frightened of saying the wrong thing. I have always been so ‘with it’,” she said.
After spending time with Pat, I can picture her as a beautiful and vivacious woman who managed her domestic, work and social life so capably — and with a good deal of charm. I imagine her as the life of a party.
Now she hates going out. She used to go out to community activities with other people with dementia, but stopped after a while as she hated being reminded of her illness.
“I don’t join in anything anymore,” she said.
“I like him to go out and mix. I don’t go out anymore. I’ll go over to the shopping centre. I’ll go to family.”
Pat’s dementia has meant Ed has had to take on the role of carer. He spends much of his time doing chores around the house — pottering in the garden, preparing meals and caring for Pat.