My father, Mike Quinn has been a happy resident at Charlton Lodge in Tiverton for nearly two years. It is not an understatement to say that living at Charlton Lodge has transformed his life for the better in so many ways. For over forty years my father has suffered with bi-polar disorder and has been frequently hospitalised. Life has not been easy for him. Life has not been easy for my mother, who has stood by him all this time. There have been many, many difficult times. Many hospitalisations. Much anxiety and fear. To be honest, it’s been difficult for my brother and I too.
A few years ago, my father developed Parkinson’s disease. It took a while to diagnose as we thought his tremors were caused by the cocktail of drugs he is on for his bi-polar. Parkinson’s is nasty, real nasty. One thing my father never does is complain about it. He is an intelligent, funny, caring man and I love him dearly.
At home, he was very unhappy. The reduction in his mobility caused him much frustration. My mother tried her hardest to help him, but it all became too much. He started going for the odd respite weekend at care homes. He went to a few private ones, which he thought were okay. Then he went to Charlton Lodge. He loved it. Charlton Lodge feels like a home rather than an institution. I heard someone say that it ‘smells of home, of toast and marmalade’. It is so true. It just became the sensible thing for dad to stay at Charlton. His psychiatrist agreed. It is perfect. It is a five minute drive from my office and a five minute drive from my mum. One of us pops in nearly every day. Apart from the days he is taken a few hundred yards away to the Haven, an Age UK day centre.
Last year, my father’s sister Sheila died. Sheila was a wonderful lady who I also loved dearly but dad and Sheila had a very special bond. Sheila was dad’s big sister and worried about him a lot. We were very lucky that she visited us just a few weeks before she died. She was initially alarmed about dad going into a home, but after visiting dad and seeing how well he was and how wonderful the staff at Charlton were, Sheila was over the moon.
When Sheila died we were resigned to the fact that this would knock dad significantly and we would be looking at another all-to-frequent hospitalisation caused by another breakdown. I could never have dreamt of the love and support my father received from the staff at Charlton. It wasn’t easy, but they got him through it. No hospitals in sight. I’ll always be grateful to them for that.
When the closures were first talked about, naturally I was upset. The real shock was how awfully it is being done. On discovering, for example, that the numbers were based on occupancy, not capacity, I naïvely sent a celebratory e-mail to my brother thinking they wouldn’t get away with it. I’ve learnt a lot since then. I’m determined to do what I can to fight this. We need places like Charlton – not-for-profit homes that CARE.