Pat Close is 84. She has Parkinson’s disease and has been living in a local care home for four years. With the help of her daughter, Kate, she talks about life now and how it used to be
‘I lived in a cottage with a beautiful garden in Petersham before I came here and though I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2003, I lived independently until 2011 when I moved to Cecil Court in Kew.
‘The day starts around 9am. I need help to get up, get dressed and get into my wheelchair. The Parkinson’s not only affects my limbs, but my voice, too. I have to do voice exercises to warm up the chords, otherwise my voice comes out as a whisper. Even then, sometimes my voice is just not there.
‘I like most of the people here, although someone’s always asleep. I sit with the same ladies at meals, which is nice, and there are different activities every day, such as yoga, which do in my wheelchair.
‘Until about a year ago I could still move about and didn’t need a chair. I loved visiting Kew Gardens for a walk or meeting friends at Kew Grill or Ma Cusine for lunch. Now I’m in a wheelchair all the time, but I have friends and family who take me out for tea or a walk.
‘It’s very frustrating being in a chair with such restricted movement – I need help for everything. Even if I want to listen to some music I have to ask someone else to turn it on. It’s very different to the life I used to have. I used to be a physiotherapist and set up my own successful practice in Richmond in 1968, as well as being the main physio for Rosslyn Park. Now someone else gives me physio to stop my joints seizing up.
‘In my earlier years my late husband, George, and I worked abroad for some years and we lived in Brussels when he was Principal Legal Advisor to the European Union. I definitely want to stay in!
‘My daughter Kate, helped me to re-do my room here, so it reminds me of the cottage, with its wonderful garden. I was passionate about gardening and used to open mine to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme, to raise money for charity.
‘The best thing about living here is its proximity to Kate. She visits every day and takes me out, although it’s harder in winter as the weather restricts our outings as I can no longer get in or out of a car.
‘I often eat dinner in bed, at around 5.30, as I have to be careful about not spending too much time in the chair. But I don’t fall asleep until about midnight. When I close my eyes, I imagine I’m walking through the rooms of my cottage, looking at the pictures on the walls that George painted and listening to my grandchildren running around the beautiful garden, shouting, ‘Granny!’.