For the majority of people, moving their spouse with dementia into a care home marks only the latest stage of a painful, drawn-out ending.
三级成人视频More than a decade ago, John and Nula Suchet expected no different. When they moved their respective partners, Bonnie and James, into a private facility in Hertfordshire in 2009, it was a last resort, after each had spent years struggling to care for them at home.
At the time, the pair were unknown to one another. Bonnie, John’s wife of 24 years, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004.三级成人视频 James, Nula’s scriptwriter husband of 17 years, was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a rare variant of dementia, a year later. They had both watched the loves of their lives fade mentally, and deteriorate physically, until the gut-wrenching decision to move them into full-time care became unavoidable.
三级成人视频But for John, 76, the veteran newsreader turned Classic FM presenter, and Nula, a writer, that decision also led to a beautifully unexpected beginning.
“I didn’t meet John for a long time, but Bonnie was in almost the next door room in the care home, and she used to ramble in and out, so I’d take her and James downstairs for a hot chocolate and a coffee, and that went on for a while,” Nula says.
She had been struggling to cope with James, feeling helpless and falling into depression as a result of her situation, for years. “That’s the thing with caring for a dementia patient, it’s so draining三级成人视频,” she says. “It was unbearable. It almost killed me.”
Six months after James moved in, the care home organised a lunch for spouses of dementia patients, because they felt, understandably, that partners of patients likely needed more support than adult children. There, Nula finally met John, and quickly identified him as not only Bonnie’s husband, but one of the few people she could really talk to.
三级成人视频“It was like turning on the light, the moment he started talking, because he understood exactly what I was going through,” she says. “And that was so amazingly comforting.”
三级成人视频They began emailing, and continued for about a year, before John asked Nula to join him for dinner, “which wasn’t terribly successful”, and then a weekend in Vienna, “which was even less successful” – principally thanks to what Nula calls “The Big G”. Guilt.
三级成人视频“It was a difficult journey…” she begins to say, before John picks up. “We were meeting and enjoying each other’s company, but there were tensions there, because we each had a spouse, who was living, and slowly departing from us,” he says. “Right from the start, Nula said to me, ‘There are four of us in this relationship.’”
Later, an Admiral Nurse (who provides specialist dementia support for carers) gave John an invaluable pep talk: “He said, ‘‘What would you want for [Bonnie and James], if it was the other way around? To find happiness? And what would they want for you, if they knew what had happened to them?’”
John was helped by his three sons, as well as Bonnie’s two from a previous marriage. But Nula, who had no children and whose family mainly lived in Ireland, arguably struggled more.
“I think men are able to compartmentalise their lives,” she says, “whereas women tend to hold on to the past and to feelings. The Big G used to sit on my shoulder and say ‘How can you do this?’ My female emotions overwhelmed my logic, almost. Friends were saying, ‘You must get on, you must make a life, you must get out there, James won’t be back again.’ It’s true, but with this disease, the person dies before they have physically gone.”
Around this time, they both began working on honest books about their experiences. John’s, My Bonnie: How Dementia Stole the Love of My Life, is both a beautiful tribute and a fine articulation of how it feels to mourn somebody living – the temper tantrums, the shame, the powerlessness. Nula’s, The Longest Farewell: James, Dementia and Me, is, if anything, even more raw and affecting. It is now being made into a Hollywood film, which will include its happy ending.
“Ours sounds a lovely romantic story, that we got together because our spouses were in the same care home – and that’s absolutely true – but believe me, it had its ups and downs,” John says. “We really don’t want anyone to think you can put dementia in a box and it’s plain sailing.”
三级成人视频James died in late 2014, followed five months later by Bonnie. The pair were neighbours in the care home for almost six years, and continue to be so, since some of James’s ashes are scattered with Bonnie’s.
三级成人视频Nula and John, meanwhile, after several stops and starts over the years, committed to one another. In 2016, John proposed on a flight to India, and they married on the seventh day of the seventh month (seven is Nula’s lucky number) surrounded by a few friends and family.
三级成人视频The Suchets now live on the banks of the Thames in east London, and couldn’t be happier. Speaking on the phone, they both have wonderfully distinct and easy-on-the-ear voices – Nula’s gentle Irish lilt, Suchet’s smooth broadcaster boom – and finish one another’s sentences like a couple that have been together for decades.
“Our experiences definitely made us realise we need to get as much out of life as we possibly can – to do things, to travel…” Nula says. Top of their list has long been Argentina, where Nula wants to learn the tango and then show John up. He cuts in: “And then of course, Covid-19 happens.”
On a personal level, they have broadly enjoyed the silver linings of lockdown. Nula is writing, and John was sent kit from Classic FM that enables him to broadcast from their flat.
“It’s really rather nice, I can put on a piece of music and then pop into the kitchen for a coffee with Nula, and the loo is always free. Radio has played such a huge part in people’s lives in quarantine. I’ve been at Classic FM for 10 years now, but I’m getting three times the number of emails from people around the world.”
三级成人视频Both now ambassadors for the Alzheimer’s Society, they are dismayed, however, at the Government’s handling of – or abject refusal to take responsibility for – the care home crisis. According to the latest figures, more than 16,000 people have died from Covid-19 in UK care facilities, and dementia has been identified as the pre-existing medical condition that carries the highest mortality risk.
“It has always been the outcast of diseases, and this has only come to life because of the high death rate. The whole social care system is in a dementia crisis. It’s heart-breaking,” Nula says. They both point out that dementia patients are easily scared by their own confusion, so suddenly having staff in face masks and visors, or carers unable to visit, will take an enormous toll on everybody involved.
“I think when this struck, the Government just didn’t think of care homes,” John says. “It just didn’t occur to them that it would be an issue. I think it was Sky News who largely brought it to everybody’s attention, and the Government went, ‘Oh blimey, care homes! Didn’t think of that…’ And that is symptomatic of the Government’s whole approach to dementia. They talk about it, but nothing changes.”
The Suchets will continue to work, and continue to campaign for those in power to remember care homes, dementia patients, and their cash-strapped families. But they will also remember to live their lives – not least because James and Bonnie would have insisted on it.
三级成人视频“We say to each other almost every day, ‘Live for today!’” John says, “Because who knows what next week’s going to bring?”
Donate to the Alzheimer’s Society’s Emergency Appeal at to support people with dementia through this uncertain time