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06 May 2014


Joe Behrens is 93 years old and lives in Whetstone, North London. He has a live in carer called Jairo, who is provided through SweetTree Home Care Services.


Joe fled from Germany to live in Zambia in 1939, when he was just 18 years old. He was a qualified electrician and worked on many different projects, including opening the very first open air cinema in Zambia. Whilst working in South Africa he met his wife Eva and they settled in Zambia, going on to have three sons. In 1973 they decided to move to the UK permanently.

Dementia diagnosis

It was Joe’s family who first noticed signs of dementia in his behaviour, including increasing disorientation about places. Joe subsequently went to see his GP and was referred to Barnet Hospital for a formal diagnosis. He was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after approximately one year.

Helen Behrens, Joe’s daughter in-law, is a dementia trainer who saw the signs and knew where to go to get help. Helen said: “We found getting a formal diagnosis was a prolonged experience. A timely diagnosis is extremely important. People need to feel ready for a diagnosis of dementia. Some people talk about an early diagnosis, but it needs to be timely.”

Support options

Joe and his family have always discussed his Alzheimer’s disease very openly and have worked together to manage the condition as it has progressed. Being pragmatic by nature, together with Helen’s knowledge of dementia, both Joe and his family have looked at support options and risk management planning.

In November 2012, in light of Eva’s deteriorating physical health, the family decided to contact SweetTree about possible care and flexible support options. This led to an initial stint of emergency live in care, then to blocks of short term live in care, nights or long days, being provided depending on Joe and Eva’s needs.

When Eva sadly passed away in April 2013, Jairo joined Joe as a long term live in carer. This support has enabled Joe to remain at home, whilst reducing risk and worry for his family.

“Any action we considered taking needed to be what Joe wanted, and in his best interest, to enable him to keep his freedom and independence,” said Helen. “The main benefits of the live in care arrangement are Joe maintains his independence and risks relating to safety are minimised.”

Jairo helps Joe with a range of support, from managing housework to helping with cooking and nutrition. They regularly go for trips and long walks, sightseeing and look at scrap books of past holidays, with all support being tailored to Joe’s individual passions and preferences.

Jairo also assists Joe in visiting The Sam Beckman Centre three times a week, which he really enjoys. The centre offers a programme of stimulating activities for people who have memory impairment and/or a diagnosis of a type of dementia.

Helen said: “Jairo is incredible at researching relevant activities. This input is really important, as it prompts Joe’s long term memory enabling him to retain his identity. Jairo always finds music, documentaries and movies that Joe enjoys. Just last week they were listening to Bavarian music Joe knew and loved from his past. It would just not be possible for Joe to remain at home, where he is most content, without the live-in care that Jairo provides.”

“If you’re facing this situation yourself, then plan, and be prepared,” concluded Helen. “Be pragmatic and practical, so decisions can be made early on. Even if support isn’t needed immediately, it’s so important to explore all the options.”

Joe added: “Forget about it! Dementia doesn’t restrict my life.”

SweetTree is sponsoring The Alzheimer’s Show 2014, which will be taking place 16-17 May at Olympia in London. For more information please visit

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