Since 92-year-old George McKenzie’s wife died he has struggled with loneliness, but with the help of his friends at ellenor he has found joy in new activities and adopted a positive outlook.
Fellow day patients and staff at the hospice charity have given him friendship and a fresh zest for life. With their help and the loving support of his family, George now finds happiness in his daily life. The physiotherapy he receives to ease symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and fibrosis of the liver is also a great help to him.
The retired Swanley GP was referred to the Northfleet hospice as a day patient before the Covid pandemic. He no longer had the companionship of his dear wife Sylvia, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and had moved to a care home.
George said: “Losing that person you can talk to is the hardest thing.”
During his time in general practice from 1961 to 1993 George said he did not come across many patients with Alzheimer’s, so he found it hard to adjust.
He said: “Being a GP, people think you must know everything but that’s not the case. In fact, it’s surprising how much you don’t know. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and for the last couple of years Sylvia didn’t know us at all.”
Sylvia died just at the beginning of the Covid pandemic before lockdown, and George is thankful he was still able to visit her.
Finding himself no longer a carer and with no companion to share life’s ups and downs, George felt very much alone. But his weekly visits to ellenor, where he stays on after his physiotherapy for lunch and afternoon activities, have gradually helped to turn his life around.
He said: “I can talk to the staff there and meet other people in a similar situation, and the physiotherapy I receive is a great help. ellenor helps me to get there and home again, I have a lovely lunch, which costs me less than a fiver.
“Coming to ellenor doesn’t mean you are on your last legs. A lot of the other day patients have breathing problems like me. Others have joint problems, and it helps a lot when you can talk about it. I do find it a godsend -- it’s very refreshing to talk to people and listen to their troubles.”
Losing Sylvia and then facing the Covid lockdowns made life doubly difficult for George. As a GP, he said he had never experienced anything as “shocking and worrying” as Covid before the pandemic eased. He also finds it difficult when dear friends die.
He said: “Like lots of people, I find it hard to go and see a GP. I had to give up driving two years ago because I have macular degeneration, and that’s the worst thing of all. When you stop driving, it all stops. I used to play golf three times a week, but my eyesight meant I couldn’t see the ball anyway.”