Eddie Graves is 91 years old. 7 years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Previously an outgoing lover of sport, Eddie felt trapped in his own home due to multiple falls and become isolated from friends. Letty, Eddies wife, also suffered and episode of ill health attributed to the stress associated with caring and worrying about Eddie 24 hours a day.
In June this year, Eddie was introduced to Sport for Confidence at Clacton Leisure Centre. Here, Eddie, supported by his wife, has been able to get involved in weekly sports sessions, specifically designed for people who face barriers to participation. He was also able to return to the swimming pool for the first time in years.
Today, Eddie’s life is very different to 10 months ago. He now enjoys improved physical and mental health, a new group of friends and goals which enable him to look more positively towards the future.
This is his story…
Eddie has always loved sport and, for most of his life, embraced physical activity. As a young man he enjoyed peak physical fitness, serving his country as a Royal Marine Commando Eddie was called up and served for 18 months after the war before joining the work force in civvy street.
As he moved into later life, Eddie enjoyed Boules. He loved the competitive element of the sport but also placed huge value on the social aspect, the camaraderie that sport brings with it. Swimming has also been a part of Eddie’s life since he was a young man his two sons are also very strong swimmers and have competed for their county.
In late 2018, Eddie’s condition rapidly deteriorated. He suffered repeated falls, one was so severe it fractured his spine.
Caring for Eddie and watching his health deteriorate also negatively affected his wife, Letty, who, in November 2018, suffered an episode of Belles paulsy, attributed to stress. At first, the doctors thought Letty had a stroke. Letty has fortunately made a full recovery.
On New Year’s Day, also Eddies 91st birthday a fall put Eddie in hospital for 3 weeks. Letty visited every day and they kept each other positive. Eddie was admitted to the elderly ward contracted pneumonia while there, the doctor told Letty that Eddie was a ‘frail old man’ and that ‘she should just take him home and care for him there’.
Letty and Eddies children took Eddie home in the hope that he might do better in his own environment. At first, he couldn’t walk and as his physical condition improved, he became too scared to go outside, fearing he may fall again. Eddie became trapped in his own home. Friends and family visited less frequently and Eddie became extremely isolated and lonely.
Then, one day, the visiting physiotherapist told Eddie and Letty about Sport For Confidence, the new inclusive sports programme at Clacton Leisure Centre that provided sporting opportunities for people just like Eddie.
In June, Eddie attended his first Boccia session, supported by Letty. Over the next few visits, Eddie began to form new friendships and his confidence started to grow. Letty no longer had to stay with him, feeling happy leaving him under the supervision of the Sport For Confidence Occupational Therapist and sports coach.
In July, Eddie started the Swim For Confidence programme, also run by Sport For Confidence, designed to provide additional support for those who need it. Despite his love of swimming, Eddie hadn’t been in a pool for years worrying how the risk of slipping and also how he would enter and exit the water.
With help, Eddie found he could get in and out of the water using the poolside hoist. He also felt mre confident in the water with the support of Sport For Confidence Occupational Therapist, Lisa and his carer, Katie. Eddie is now working on his back stroke technique and performing a range of mobility exercises which are helping to strengthen his muscles after months of limited use. Letty is even thinking of joining him for a swim!
Eddie says: “I really look forward to my swim and boccia sessions. It has also been great to be able to socialise again. The sessions give me a goal to aim for each week, they keep me going.”
Letty says: “I am really proud of Eddie. Just 6 months ago, our outlook was incredibly bleak. The doctors had written Eddie off and I couldn’t see how things would improve. Now, thanks to the Sport For Confidence programme at Clacton Leisure Centre and Eddies determined spirit, we both feel a sense of hope and have started to enjoy life again. I want to go back to that doctor who told us to go home and accept that Eddie is just a frail old man and show him the photo of Eddie swimming, just to prove you shouldn’t write people off just because they are 91!”