Friday, February 23, 2024

Kicking the Bucket

 Kicking the Bucket

Kicking the bucket is usually associated with kicking the bucket away from beneath someone intimately involved in a lynching party. It can also mean deliberately removing oneself from your personal support system - your family and friends, the NHS and the the UK social care system,

Charles Fenemore decided to do just that, following the death of his much-loved wife a couple years previously, and motivated by his advancing years, and the decline into dementia, Parkinsons, Alzheimers and other conditions afflicting most of his contemporaries,

He reasoned that a similar personal decline was probably inevitable, and that the physical dangers  encountered by sailing into the sunset would provide him with a quicker and far less debilitating death. Moreover, it would not subject his family to the traumas, desperation and expense that his friends are having to deal with  He therefore bought a boat, learned the rudiments of open water cruising - and cast off.

I wrote 'Kicking the Bucket' a few years ago, before dementia and similar became the dominant afflictions affecting the elderly. As the population ages - more of us are living longer - they are becoming more prevalent. The book is not specifically about dementia, though, but has become the undercurrent to Charles journey, and its effect on two people most involved in his endeavours. 

Dementia and Alzheimer's are not illnesses, for which you can pop some pills or anti-biotics. They are just a few of the debilitating effects of an ageing and worn out body. Alzheimer's is a specific form, of dementia, associated with memory loss. Neither is it fatal. The decline in cognitive ability affects people in different ways. Besides memory loss, those afflicted succumb OCD behaviour patterns, violent outbursts, and often lose the ability to control bodily functions like walking, bedwetting and worse.

The burdens fall on wives and husbands - mainly the former, as it appears to be more common amongst my male friends - who have to cope with the deterioration in a partner's capabilities, handle the most intimate bodily functions and deal with irrational mood swings - until they ultimately have to find a suitable care home at vast expense when they can physically and mentally do no more.

This is what Charles hoped to avoid. As we live longer there will be more of us surrendering to it. Can we forestall it, or prevent its' onset? Above all, can we provide a fairer solution and support for dementia that will prevent it from destroying, not one, but two people's lives.

We need to understand why some people develop dementia, and some avoid it can avoid it - either through maintaining active mental and physical lifestyles instead of switching off in retirement, or through changing diets and and cutting back on alcohol. Or is it hereditary? 

We also need to reduce the financial burden to dependents, some paying huge sums each week for years in care homes, and to start treating the condition as you would for any other illness. That means the NHS will, finally, have to change its spots, to adopt a proper financial model and charge some patients, or their insurance companies, for their services if they can afford it. 

Shock, Horror! The NHS precept is that it should remain free for all. Demands on its' services have dramatically increased waiting lists, persuading those who can afford it to resort to the Private sector. Not cheap, and it bolsters the income of private consultants - who might be moonlighting from the NHS anyway - instead of being directed into NHS coffers, where it could have helped pay for a couple of extra nurses, at least. It also highlights the fact that the resources within the NHS and private sector combined are probably in place. 

The other big problem is that dementia patients leaving hospital, unable to find places in suitable care homes, are blocking beds required for normal hospital admissions. It's a vicious circle and can only be resolved through better co-operation and liaison between the NHS and providers of care.

There are many other reasons why the NHS and associated care systems can't cope any more. I can no more offer solutions than you or anybody else can. What I can do, though, is to use the publication of my book 'Kicking the Bucket' to highlight one specific aspect of the problem, and that is the perceived lack of support for the partners and families of dementia patients.

I am, therefore, interested in hearing your views on dementia etc. How has it affected you? Have you had any support as an involuntary carer? What sort of difference has it made to your life? What help has been provided for your partner - or for yourself. Are you able to share this with others, or does it now dominate your life and cut you off from your social circle?  Would a local, mutual, support group provide a lifeline when you need it? A couple of suitable titles for such a group - 'I'm the Bucket' or 'The Bucket stops Here'. Or do you just need to 'Let off Steam!'

Please add your comments.

Tag this blog, as well. This might be a current theme, but there is a wide range of issues and interests that I want to cover in future blogs - from oil painting, architecture, artificial intelligence, food (especially Italian), mushroom collecting - and more. 

This is my first attempt at a blog. I'm not a website developer, either, so there will be glitches in both as we progress. If you see something I can correct or want to contact me directly, email me on  

In the meantime - buy the book. Despite the subject matter, it's a heart warming tale with a bit of a twist at the end. You can get it on line at Waterstones, WHSmiths or Blackwell's. Or as an eBook on Amazon.