Dementia campaigner gets first admiral nurse for Wakefield

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A woman’s three-year campaign to get a specialist nurse for dementia sufferers has made a major breakthrough.

Sheila Wainwright, of Woolley, has been working to raise money for an Admiral nurse for Wakefield, as there are currently none in the district.

It comes after she lost her husband John to Alzheimer’s disease three years ago.

The illness left him frightened and confused, leading to angry and violent episodes which were completely out of character.

Mrs Wainwright provided 24-hour care for her husband, but said she felt helpless as the disease took away her partner of 33 years.

After his death she pledged to get Wakefield its first Admiral nurse, who provides specialist care for dementia sufferers and their families.

Mrs Wainwright finally achieved her goal last week when she met Steven Michael, chief executive of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

He agreed to fund the first Admiral nurse in the Ossett and Horbury area in the New Year, in partnership with Dementia UK.

She said: “It is incredible news that dementia patients and their carers will be able to get the support they need.

“There are so many emotions involved when caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s. To watch the man I loved not know how to do basic tasks and become violent was harrowing for us.

“I have met so many people who have similar stories so that is why it is so important we’ve got an Admiral nurse.”

Mr Michael said: “Our trust has Admiral nurses working in our Kirklees services through a partnership with Dementia UK and Kirklees Council.

“We now have this exciting opportunity to provide that same level of support in the Wakefield district and I have given Sheila, whose campaigning is inspirational, my backing.

Mrs Wainwright said the role of the nurses was not widely acknowledged, but it was becoming increasingly important to people living with dementia.

They offer key advice to both families and carers, as well as giving guidance on tough decisions including treatments and care. There are only 130 Admiral nurses in the country, seven of which are in Kirklees.

Mr Wainwright, a senior sales director at Joshua Ellis Mill in Dewsbury, was diagnosed with the condition in 2004.

In the following six years, he became scared and confused, and needed round the clock care as the illness worsened.

Struggling to get the help she needed, a friend suggested Mrs Wainwright talk to an Admiral nurse. Mrs Wainwright said: “I was suicidal but we spoke on the phone for an hour and he just listened to me.

“I was ready to drive my car with John over a cliff because I just did not see any other way.

“Speaking to him really meant so much and his understanding of my needs were life saving.”

Mrs Wainwright has raised more than £29,000, with the help of the Soroptomists, Inner Wheel, Women’s Institute and local rotary clubs.

Money raised from the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, who played in The Cathedral this month, also contributed to the cause.

Mrs Wainwright said: “This is only the beginning and we want to keep on raising money to get more nurses and support families who need the help.”

Dementia UK’s chief Admiral nurse Hilda Hayo said: “Sheila Wainwright has worked devotedly and tirelessly to bring Admiral Nursing to Wakefield.

“Too many families in Wakefield are currently navigating the difficult journey of dementia completely alone.”

Until the nurse is based in Wakefield, anyone who has any questions or concerns about dementia should contact 0845 257 9406.