My grandfather Derak served in the Queens Own Hussars with his twin brother, Ray. Whilst serving he met and married my grandmother Marion, and he continued to serve in the forces whilst my mother and aunts grew up.
Rachel with her grandparents on the day of her first communion.
Later in life, Grandad developed Alzheimer’s, and Granny was no longer able to care for him alone. Community care failed, since my Grandad refused to let them into the flat, so my mother was asked to consider Nursing or residential care.
“It became their home and as a family we were incredibly grateful to see them so settled.”
It was then that she found out my Grandad was eligible to live at Galanos House, a Royal British Legion care home less than a mile from their flat in Southam.
My Granny insisted she didn’t want to live at the flat without him, and we were able to secure both of them a place. When they were admitted to the residential floor, they were given adjoining rooms, one of which was made into a living room, and the other a bedroom.
They were able to continue to have some normality: they had their own furniture, and my Grandad's incredible collection of gold soldier figurines. It became their home and as a family we were incredibly grateful to see them so settled.
“I can’t remember what that nurse said to me now, but 12 years later I still remember the warmth and care that she gave to us as we prepared to lose our lovely grandmother.”
When my Granny became poorly, we were all surprised, as she had been so independent. Unfortunately, she deteriorated quite quickly, and it was a big shock for us as a family.
Rachel aged six with her grandmother.
At only 13, I had never lost anyone before, and I found it incredibly upsetting: a nurse approached myself and my sister and was incredibly reassuring and caring, and the whole staff were incredibly supportive after she passed away, particularly of my Grandad, whose dementia had worsened, and could not recall her passing.
“Our family had many chances to make memories at Galanos; my personal favourite was dancing with my Grandad in the entrance hall to a folk singer.”
I can’t remember what that nurse said to me now, but 12 years later I still remember the warmth and care that she gave to us as we prepared to lose our lovely grandmother, and I know that she has played as much a part in inspiring my story as anyone else.
Over the next five years our family had many chances to make memories at Galanos House; my personal favourite was dancing with my Grandad in the entrance hall to a folk singer. Eventually his condition worsened and he was transferred from the residential to nursing floor.
“I was humbled throughout the entire experience by the dignity with which my Grandad was cared for, by the genuine affection the staff had for him, and by the way they tended to us, his family, through a truly upsetting experience.”
He battled with several debilitating chest infections, before we were eventually told that he would not recover. The night before my Grandad passed away my family and I were able to spend time with him; nine of us sat round his bed exchanging stories and memories, and stayed for much of the night.
I myself stayed, along with my mum and my aunt, until morning. I was truly humbled throughout the entire experience by the dignity with which my Grandad was cared for, by the genuine affection the staff had for him, and by the way they tended to us, his family, through a truly upsetting experience.
He passed away later that same day, and I remember telling my sister that I wanted to go back to Galanos House and work as a carer; a few short months later, I had my first job in care, at Poppy Lodge, the unit built specifically for dementia.
Rachel with her parents as she graduated from her Adult Nursing course at Coventry University.
From then on, I began to develop my career; I left my university course to pursue care full time, and later I enrolled on a Nursing degree. Seven years on from my Grandad's death, I am now a qualified nurse, with a special interest in end of life care. I am currently in the process of applying for my Masters in Palliative Care, and now work at Galanos House myself, as a staff nurse.
The care my grandparents received inspired me to become a nurse; the dedication they received was second to none. Since qualifying, and particularly when dealing with families of patients at the end of life, I’m reminded of the sincerity and kindness that they were treated with, and am inspired to deliver the greatest quality of care that I can.
I am so thankful to the Legion for providing my family with such dedicated care, and a base for my grandparents’ final years, but more than that, they have inspired me to pursue a career with purpose and meaning, and have literally changed my life as a result, and it is for this reason that I am running the London Marathon.