Moving in with a 96-year-old man gave me a new career, and a new best friend

The nine months I spent with Bill changed me, and my life, forever.

Moving in with a 96-year-old man gave me a new career, and a new best friend
Morgan taking a selfie with Bill, who is sitting in an armchair and wearing a brown and grey cardigan, and grey shirt. He has glasses and is smiling to camera
I could have sworn he gave a little smile; and then, he really was gone (Picture: Morgan Pike)

As I got on the train from Mansfield to Kendal, I was shaking.

In January 2022, I was 25-years-old and on my way to start work as a live-in carer for Bill, a 96-year-old man living with Alzheimer’s.

I’d never been more nervous. I’m generally not good with new people and this was the first time I’d left my family but I knew this was something I had to do.

When I walked into Bill’s house, he tried to stand up despite being shaky on his feet. I told him to settle back down and gave him a strong handshake instead.

‘Do you like Snooker?’ He said with a smile, and I was instantly put at ease. I could do this. 

I lived with Bill for nine months – and that caring experience changed my life.

The first time I wanted to properly care for someone else was when I was about 14 and my grandad was very ill with cancer.

He was my first best friend and I wanted to do something to help but I was too young to do anything except nip to the shop. I felt helpless.  

When he passed, I was devastated. A year later I left school to work in a factory with my dad doing embroidery – putting any thoughts of becoming a carer on the backburner.

After 10 years working with family though I decided to revisit the idea and applied for a local caring community job.

A photo of Bill in his armchair, he is wearing a brown and grey cardigan, and grey shirt. He has glasses and is smiling to camera
He was a very quiet, calm and collected man (Picture: Morgan Pike)

Everything happened quite quickly after that. I completed three weeks of training, did a day and a half of shadowing shifts and then, I was out on my own.

For the first couple of years I worked for various caring community companies. 

My day started at around 7 in the morning and I would care for around 16 or 17 people until my shift ended at 10pm – though more often than not I worked overtime.

I never minded the long hours though. So long as when I walked out the client had a smile on their face then I was happy.

Then in 2021 I decided to apply for a live-in carer job – mainly to give myself a new challenge – and that’s when I met Bill.

He was a very quiet, calm and collected man and had spent the past couple years caring for his late wife through the pandemic. Sadly this meant his dementia had gone undiagnosed for a long time.

In fact, he’d only been properly diagnosed after he ended up in London when he said he was ‘popping to the shops’.

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Now, Bill needed help at home and that was where I came in. 

When I first arrived, Bill’s dementia was probably in the middle stages; how he felt just depended on the day.

Some days he didn’t want to have a laugh or speak at all, but on the days he did, we had fun together. He became like another grandad to me.

We cooked together and he taught me all about snooker which I never thought I’d like, but soon we always made sure to watch it together. He even tried getting me into boules, but given that I was only 25 it didn’t quite stick.

In June, he got very unsteady and was in bed for two days. I called the doctor who advised him to stay in bed – and he never really made it out again.

We continued to watch snooker on a little tablet I placed on his over-the-counter table and I was generally very hopeful that he’d be here for a while.

‘He’s going to make it till 100 and we’ll be living together for a long time’. I’d tell myself. But it didn’t pan out that way.

Soon, Bill wasn’t eating or drinking, so I had to wet his lips with a flannel, and though he’d always been a man of few words – he never said a lot and a smile or a hand hold said it all – he became practically non-verbal.

Then, his toes went black, at which point the doctor said it would be a matter of days.

Bill’s daughter came back from Spain, where she was living, to be there for him at the end and truly it was heart wrenching to witness. 

Morgan taking a selfie with Bill, who is sitting in an armchair and wearing a brown and grey cardigan, and grey shirt. He has glasses and is smiling to camera
We cooked together and he taught me all about snooker (Picture: Morgan Pike)

One night, I went to get a couple of hours’ sleep but at 4:00am, his daughter knocked on the door and said, ‘He’s gone’.

I came downstairs to say my goodbye’s and as I went to give him a kiss on his forehead, he took his last breath which scared the living daylights out of me.

‘Ooh, you bugger, you always have to have the last laugh!’ I said. I could have sworn he gave a little smile; and then, he really was gone.

The nine months I spent with Bill changed me, and my life, forever.

Right now though, I’m living in a pub with my best friend but I’m still working for a caring company, too. But I try to apply my caring mentality to everything I do.

It’s not always easy and I have a tendency to try and fix everybody I meet, even people who are beyond help, but I wouldn’t change that because I do get through to a lot of people.

I recently completed an 8.5 km Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk in his memory and he’s the reason I will never stop trying to make a difference to those living with dementia.

It’s a nasty, horrible disease and that’s why I try my hardest to work with people who have it.  

Bill always remembered who I was right until the end, and I’ll never forget him or how he changed my life.

Alzheimer’s Society vows to end the devastation caused by dementia, providing help and hope for everyone affected. For more information or to make a donation, visit http://Alzheimers.org.uk 

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