A WOMAN from Ludlow has opened her heart about the pain of losing the man she married to for 50 years to Alzheimers – and she’s called for a change in the law to allow assisted suicide.
Valerie Bingham has written a book about her experiences with husband Jack, who died in May, aged 85.
“If I ever had this illness I would not want to live and while I cannot be sure how Jack felt I believe that if he could have been snapped out of his condition for a short time and seen what he had been reduced to he would not have wanted to carry on,” said the 80-year-old, who lives in Gravel Hill Mrs Bingham hopes her book, The Rocky Road to La La Land – A Descent Into Alzheimer’s will raise awareness of the illness and offer practical advice.
She said: “I started the book before Jack died and it has been very cathartic.
“It tells a story that is not all doom and gloom and hopefully will help increase understanding and provide some advice about how to cope and the support that is available.”
Mr and Mrs Bingham were originally from North London and arrived in Ludlow in 1992 via 25 years spent in Hove on the south coast.
They threw themselves into the life of the town and joined the Ludlow Amateur Dramatic Group which is where in 2005 Valerie first realised something was wrong.
“Jack who had been very good at these things started to forget his lines and I could see that something was wrong but Jack was in denial and became very angry when I mentioned the subject,” added Mrs Bingham.
After several months Mr Bingham was finally persuaded to go to the doctor’s and tests followed that resulted in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
There was a gradual deterioration in which Jack got lost on several occasions when he went out into the town. Although never physically violent he was threatening and used to lapse into rages of bad language which was out of character.
By 2010 he had to go into residential care in Leominster and two years later needed more intensive care and went to a nursing home in Bridgnorth.
In the end he did not know his wife, their two sons or grandchildren.
Mrs Bingham has been convinced by her experience that legislation should be introduced to allow assisted suicide for people whose lives have become intolerable.
“At the end he was doubly incontinent and could not use his arm or eat properly. It was awful to see him like a baby propped up in a chair in a nappy and dribbling into a bib.”
Valerie believes that mental health issues remain a Cinderella while all of the attention goes to conditions like cancer from which she has suffered.
She admits that it was a relief and a release from suffering when the man she married in 1959 died.
“Fortunately I can remember and think of Jack when he was well and not as he ended up,” she added.
The book will be launched with a signing at The Castle Book Shop in Ludlow town centre between 11am and 2pm on Friday August 15.