Devoted husband tells of his heartbreak decision to move his wife of nearly 60 years into care
Mike Keoghan has no regrets about the family’s decision that Joan, who lives with dementia, should become a permanent resident of Broughton House Veteran Care Village in Salford.
The couple are both service veterans, and Mike says Broughton House was the ideal choice for Joan when the time came for her to require a care home environment.
Devoted Mike, 78, now makes the 53-mile round trip from his home in Cheshire at least four times a week to visit Joan, and he has even stayed at Broughton House himself for respite after surgery to be close to her.
He has become a popular volunteer at the home too, spending time with other residents and accompanying them on outings.
Joan, 77, is one of the first residents of the new Charlie Fox Wing for dementia patients.
Broughton House has cared for more than 8,000 veterans since it opened its doors to the ex-service community in 1916. The dementia wing is named in honour of Broughton House’s first ever resident, who lived there until he died in 1944.
The care village is currently welcoming an average of two new residents a month, and Mike hopes the couple’s touching story and their experience of the new complex will inspire others to consider Broughton House as a home for their loved ones.
Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017 and Mike became her carer at their home in Mobberley. He continued to look after her there for four years, even after he underwent surgery for a number of issues, including a heart operation.
Then, one day, daughter Julie – one of the couple’s three children – spotted what she thought may be a melanoma on Mike’s nose during a FaceTime call with him from her home in Australia.
A friend of Mike’s who lives Down Under had seen an advertisement for Broughton House in a magazine, and passed it on to him. The family thought it would be a suitable place for Joan to go for respite care while Mike again underwent surgery, this time to remove the melanoma.
Joan spent six weeks there, and the family were so pleased with the care she received that they decided she should move in permanently, which she did in April 2021.
Mike said: “Joan could shuffle around the house and go out in a wheelchair. I was feeding her and dressing and bathing her, but it was at the stage where I could not cope any longer. I’d had a shoulder operation too, which also restricted my ability to look after her adequately.
“It was a very hard decision to let her move into full-time care. We were married in August 1965 and had such a wonderful life together, raising three children and then welcoming the arrival of five grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
“I was in tears at night, wondering whether I’d done the right thing. But, as we are both service veterans, I knew it was the right place for Joan. I cannot speak highly enough of the place – the staff, the management, the activities and the facilities – they are all amazing.
“There’s a great sense of camaraderie and the new building is excellent. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff.
“Naturally, I wish she was at home with me. I really miss her, but I visit very often and I have become a registered volunteer at Broughton House, which means I get to spend lots of time there and go with Joan and other residents on a variety of outings in the home’s minibus.
“I accompany them to places such as local parks and the Imperial War Museum North, and to events such as RHS Flower Shows and special Remembrance Day services, as well as to hospital appointments and shopping trips.”
At Broughton House, he makes tea for the residents and helps to feed those who need assistance.
After surgery to his left shoulder last year, he even booked himself in for respite care to be close to Joan.
“It breaks my heart every day that she is so many miles away, but I know she’s being well looked after in a fantastic care home,” he says.
“She is very settled and content, and she enjoys the wellbeing activities and exercises as well as when a singer comes to perform for the residents. Spending lots of time at Broughton House helps me overcome the loneliness of being at home without Joan.”
The couple met at the NAAFI Club in Aldershot during an evening out in the early 1960s while Mike was serving in the Parachute Regiment and Joan was a trainee nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, based at the Colchester Military Hospital.
Mike was later posted to Bahrain and Joan to Libya. The couple were married in Joan’s native Penshaw in Co Durham in 1965, shortly after she was discharged from service.
Mike continued to serve in the army, for a total of 12 years, on tours of duty in Bahrain, Aden, British Guyana and Malta and training in a number of other countries, including Australia, Malaya, Singapore and Cyprus.
After he was discharged from the army, the couple then lived and worked in Dubai for 14 years. Joan was employed by the police as a driving instructor for women. Mike worked as a senior offshore field medic for Dubai Petroleum, rising to senior training and safety roles in Dubai.
The couple returned permanently to the UK in 1988 when Mike got a job with BP as an offshore safety officer for a new North Sea gas field. He later left the oil industry to spend 15 years as a prison officer before retiring in 2004 at the age of 60.
Joan worked as a social welfare officer and care team leader until she retired at the same time as Mike.
The couple loved to travel – after retiring, they spent eight years living in Queensland, and they have visited many countries.
“We absolutely loved travelling and seeing interesting new places. Over the years we’ve been all over, including trips to South America, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Hawaii and even the Khyber Pass in Pakistan,” said Mike.
Nowadays, their trips are limited to local places of interest, but the joy of being in the company of the love of his life never wanes for Mike, despite Joan’s condition.
Karen Miller, chief executive of Broughton House, said: “It is an honour and a privilege, for all of us here at Broughton House, to be able to support Mike and Joan. They truly have a remarkable story together and they are an inspiration to everyone they meet.
“Although heart-breaking, we are glad that to be able to offer the comfort and peace of mind to Mike and his daughters and son, that Joan is being well looked after in a loving and supportive environment.”
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