'I'm very lucky' - Bill praises dedicated carers who make life at home possible for wife Peggy

Lisa Rosser, Tracey Ferro and Bill Owen
Lisa Rosser, Tracey Ferro and Bill Owen

Bill Owen and his wife Margaret were spending Christmas with their daughter in Bristol when she took a sudden turn for the worse.

Their five-day festive visit turned into a long five-month stay.

Margaret, known as Peggy, had previously been a little forgetful.

But the morning after their arrival in Bristol from Swansea her condition altered at the drop of a hat.

"We got up and had breakfast, I went into the kitchen and she sat down on the settee," recalls Bill.

"I went back into the room and spoke to her. She didn't answer. I tapped her face, and she had gone completely."

A doctor was called, district nurses visited and steps were taken by Swansea Council, many miles away, for an assessment.

Bill and his daughter turned the Bristol dining room into a makeshift bedroom and cared for their loved one.

It was May when the couple returned to their Port Tennant home.

Life was now very different.

Peggy required a lot of help and still does, more than three years after her episode. The council arranged for a home care company to visit daily and attend to her needs.

After two years a different company, Home Instead Senior Care, took over. And Bill has been very impressed.

"They have been wonderful," says Bill, of Port Tennant Road. "I could not cope without them. They have never let me down."

Two carers visit four times a day, every day of the year.

"Outside of that I just sit with her — I don't mind that," said Bill, whose romance with Peggy began in 1951 at the Mumbles Pier dance hall.

Stuck in a fog, Peggy has remarkably shown signs of improvement over the last year.

"One day I sat and held her hand and put on a CD of my eldest granddaughter, who is an opera singer, and she said to me, 'Hannah's got a lovely voice'," says Bill. "If I offer her tea she might say 'yes please' or 'lovely', or nothing at all."

He said at night, when he tells he loves her, she has replied: "I know you do."

Bill, a 91-year-old former oil company manager, adds: "I don't expect anything wonderful — I'm amazed there is any improvement at all."

But he is adamant his wife should stay where she is. "Nobody has asked me about her going into a home, and I don't want it," he insists.

Bill does not leave the house often. Occasionally the Alzheimer's Society provides a sitter, enabling him head into town.

A real treat is a visit to the opera — and on one occasion Bill chaperoned his wife's two regular carers, Lisa Rosser and Tracey Ferro, at La Boheme at Swansea Grand Theatre.

Tracey, a seamstress who also works at Tesco, described carer work as "monumentally demanding at times but also very rewarding".

Lisa says her own mother was a carer, but adds: "It's not for everyone."

Neither of them are likely to become millionaires, but their value to people like Bill, who is currently not picking up the home care tab, is measured in other ways.

"It is a wonderful service," he says.

"Thank God, I'm very lucky."

Bill says people have been very good to him since his wife's decline.

One time a local taxi company boss spotted him in the street and ferried him into town for free. It was a hark back to his younger days, he says, when people in need were cared for by relatives and neighbours.

Bill's memories of Peggy, now 92, are still very much intact, including their first meetings.

He says with a grin: "I knew a girl who worked in a certain shop, and introduced her to another fellow. She was the one — and she dropped the other fellow!"

He adds: "Life is not normal now. But we have got no regrets."

A group of Home Instead CAREGivers talking
Family welcoming a Home Instead care manager into their home