Interacting with their family, or other people who have the same shared experiences, is a vital lifeline for people with sight loss. So life during lockdown and social distancing can be quite hard. Here at Galloway's, we have been working hard to support the blind and partially sighted community in a number of ways, from making regular phone calls, to using new forms of technology and social media. Richard Jones, who has macular degeneration and hasn’t driven for 12 years, was looking forward to spending his 90th birthday racing round a track and sitting in a classic Jaguar as part of the annual Galloway's driving day.
He was also excited to see extended family members who were planning to travel from other parts of the country for a big party. But as he and the rest of the nation are in lockdown, he spent his birthday in isolation with his wife of 63 years, Eileen.
Richard, who grew up in Lostock Hall but now lives in Torrisholme, says: “I lost my sight 12 years ago. I went to see my optician and he told me I had macular degeneration in both eyes and there was no cure. “I can see shapes but I can’t tell who a person is until I recognise their voice. If I look in front of me, I can’t see anything, but I have peripheral vision, so I have to look to the side. I know where everything is in my house, but if someone moves anything, I won’t know where it is. “My wife Eileen and I isolated ourselves at the beginning of March as we are both nearly 90 and very vulnerable. We are frightened to death of catching it. I don’t think we would get through the virus. “It is awful family not being able to come, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
Richard, who has three daughters, says he is missing his weekly visits to the Galloway’s cafe, Brew Me Sunshine, in Morecambe. He says: “I go for a coffee every Thursday to meet with sight loss advisor Pam Whitaker, who is out of this world. There are usually 15 people there and we get together for companionship. We really enjoy that as by talking to people, you learn a lot. There is nothing better than communication. If you never speak to anyone, you would never learn about what other people do when coping with sight loss. They can give you tips and advice. But lockdown has ended that for a bit.”
But his biggest disappointment is missing out on the annual Driving Day, organised by Galloway’s. The popular event, at Three Sisters Race Track in Ashton-in-Makerfield, near Wigan, was due to take place on his birthday – May 11th.
The grandfather-of-nine said: “I was really looking forward to the driving day. Can you imagine, me at 90, going round a race track in an electric car? I have not driven for 12 years, but that would do just the job. It would have been a lovely birthday present. But I won’t get to do that now. Hopefully it will happen later in the year.”
Richard, a former food rep, adds that despite not being able to visit the Brew Me Sunshine cafe, he has received regular support from the Galloway’s sight loss advisors. He says: “Galloway’s is a fantastic place. Pam rings up every week to check that I am okay and that I have enough food, which is a lovely idea because getting supermarket delivery slots has been hard. My daughters had been trying to order online on my behalf for three weeks, but I was not on the vulnerable list, even though I am 90 next month. But thankfully my daughters have managed to get me on the list so they can order for me and get a slot.”
Richard adds that whilst managing his sight loss, he also supports his wife, who has Parkinson’s, with the help of carers. He says: “We have six carers who come throughout the day and they bend over backwards for us.”
Richard’s daughter, Andrea says: “Galloway’s has been absolutely marvellous in the way the team has supported my dad. “He loves his chats at Brew Me Sunshine and now those visits for support are on hold. “Sadly, due to the Coronavirus lockdown, dad’s driving day could not take place and he spent his 90th birthday at home in isolation instead of with family, and missing out on the thrill of driving again. “We are all experiencing unprecedented times, but at a time in their lives when mum and dad need more support than ever, they are forced into isolation. It is so nice to know that through Galloway’s, help is there for them. “Pam now phones dad to touch base, offers to drop off provisions and provides details of local support networks. From this, my sister finally sorted food delivery for dad and mum and when she told me, her words were ‘What a relief!’ Those words sum it up for families like ours. It is a relief. It means a great deal to dad too, who, whilst never complaining about his enforced isolation, must be feeling particularly anxious and vulnerable. “Knowing that there is support for mum and dad is amazing. It is such a comfort.”
Richard is just one of many who have been affected by social distancing and lockdown measures. His daughter Andrea wrote us a letter about how much he relied on our services and how grateful they both were for our support. Their story is being used as part of our Galloway's emergency appeal letter which is being posted to our supporters.
To find out more about the emergency appeal click here: https://www.galloways.org.uk/andrea-story
To find out how other Galloway's members are coping during lockdown click here: https://www.galloways.org.uk/post/galloway-s-is-a-lifeline-for-people-with-sight-loss-during-lockdown