It's the family's turn to give something back
2, Jul, 2009
WORLD War Two veteran and former field gunner Joe Sevieri has eight children, 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Now the 86-year-old widower has been diagnosed with dementia, his son John said it's the family’s turn to look after him.
Joe suffers from chronic short-term memory loss and his long-term memory is gradually deteriorating.
Father and son told their story to support the Dementia Awareness campaign, which is highlighting growing numbers of people with the condition.
John, aged 48, of Saltash, said: “As the population is ageing, people are becoming more aware of dementia.
“It’s already a fact of life for many people and that’s going to increase.”
He said his father’s health deteriorated after his wife Olive’s death in 2001 and he was diagnosed with dementia three years later.
John said: “You adjust as time goes on in the best way you can.
“He always joked years ago that he went in for stocks instead of shares with the family.
“We can now look after him and give something back in his later years. Collectively we do what we can to make his life as comfortable as possible and without stress.
“We are very fortunate. It must be difficult for other people who don’t have so many children.”
Joe lives in St Barnabas Court, extra care housing in Stoke, where John said he can retain his independence while being supported 24 hours a day.
His family help pay for the assisted flat, run by Ridgeway Community Housing Association, and visit him daily.
“It’s mainly his short-term memory that has suffered,” said John. “For example, he will telephone you and then he’ll forget and ring again and again.
“He needs the constant stimulus of having people around. At St Barnabas, he’s with other people. And we come to take him out whenever we can.”
John and his siblings have surrounded Joe with family pictures to aid his memory, and also help him remember things by writing notes for him to read when they are not around.
Joe was born in Cardiff and moved to Plymouth when he was 16 to join the Navy. He joined in 1938 and served throughout the Second World War, notably in the Arctic Convoys delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union. He made the rank of chief petty officer.
He met his wife in Plymouth and married her before the end of the war, in 1944.
He worked as a postman in the Royal Mail post room at Pennycomequick after leaving the forces, but kept links with Navy sports teams.
John said: “When dad was a young man he was a naturally talented sportsman and was very active. He played rugby, football and was in the Devonport field gun crew, competing in the 1950s.” Joe and Olive raised eight children at their St Budeaux home – Jean, Linda, Kath, twin boys Lawrence and Joe Jnr, Olwyn, John and Debi.
John said: “Mum and dad did the best they could. In later years you feel it’s your time to give something back.”
When all the children had left home, the couple moved to council housing in Kings Tamerton, until Olive’s death when Joe moved to a council flat.
After Joe was diagnosed with dementia in 2004, Social Services helped find him a flat in specialist sheltered housing.
John said: “Dad just needs that little bit of help. He’s got his independence and has his own flat but he’s also got assisted care.
“Myself and Debi live locally and we visit whenever we can. I come at least three or four times a week.
“It’s about maintaining his independence for as long as possible. He has independence and security.”