In search of dignity for the last days
From：Telegraph View：542 Date：2014-12-10
This year Doug Hayward, my ex-husband, would have been eighty. Our daughter Polly posted an endearingly frail picture of him on Facebook to celebrate. I also dug out a charming photo of the two of them in front of his famous Mayfair tailor’s shop when she was just eighteen months old. Hayward and Hayward.
As each anniversary comes along we are all compelled to revisit the past. In our case we repeatedly try to understand why this enterprising man, who escaped a poor background to become friends with all the movers and shakers of the classless Sixties, would be felled by Alzheimer’s while relatively young, dying with the same loss of dignity as so many other sufferers.
Doug was a brilliant tailor who married Continental flair with British workmanship. He made Michael Caine’s suits for The Italian Job and Roger Moore’s for The Spy Who Loved Me. His famous clients, including Clint Eastwood and John Le Carre, became close friends. But he was not immune to a disease which places insuperable demands on every family it strikes. Who is to look after the patient? Where are they to live? Can they hope to maintain a degree of independence?.
We were trying to answer these questions ten years ago, when Alzheimer’s care was in its infancy and specialist homes for those with dementia - such as those provided by the Abbeyfield Society, sponsored this year by the Telegraph’s Christmas Charity appeal - were thin on the ground.
With so little expertise about, Doug’s worst nightmare was to leave his own surroundings. So when in 2004, at the age of 69, his health deteriorated rapidly it resulted in unprecedented levels of stress, more even than that caused by our bitter divorce in 1978. The greatest challenge was trying to find kind, sensible professionals who would help support him in his own home for as long as possible.
A recent survey by the Care Quality Commission concluded that finding suitable carers is one of the most stressful issues facing any family with a frail or disabled relative. Indeed it is. How well I remember those dreadful days when we were faced with exactly this problem after Doug collapsed with malnutrition and dementia. After a lengthy stay in hospital it became clear he would need 24 hour care. We were luckier than most in that he had always squirrelled away money, so to begin with at least, there were sufficient funds available. Doug lived alone in a one-bedroomed flat above his shop in Mount Street. I lived opposite, but dementia patients need someone there on the spot and neither flat was suited to anyone else moving in. Besides which, after 30 years apart, we were reluctant to be that intimate. However, after he set fire to his bed clothes, mistaking them for the gas stove, a solution had to be found.