Facing Parkinson’s through partnership

Publish date: 20 July 2023

It takes enormous strength for Bethanie Esprit resident Neil Bevis to care for his wife Janice, but he serves her unwaveringly with love and patience, and admiration for the depth of character and courage she displays.

“My conclusion after all these years…is that while everyone has their own type of hardship, nobody should have to go through it alone,” said Neil.

In 1997 Janice was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease following some back pain and a slight limp. Her eagle-eyed GP sent her for testing with a neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis and began her on a schedule of drugs. It wasn’t long before her gait changed, and the tremors became more pronounced and Janice sadly had to retire from primary school teaching.

The long road to the current day for Janice has included trial and error with her medications and the implantation of the Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) device – where electrodes were implanted in parts of the brain, attached to wires and tunneled under the skin to a neurostimulator device. Inserted into her chest, the device fires electronic pulses to the brain to control movement, vastly improving Janice’s quality of life.

With a decline in Janice’s condition, Neil retired in 2014 from his lifelong career in shipping – finishing ranked as a Chief Officer merchant marine and a Lieutenant Commander (RANR) before working as a Shipping Agent, and then lecturer – to become Janice’s full time carer.

“Janice manages immense self-discipline and purpose, with a passion to pursue life for as long as possible,” said Neil.

“We all take pride in her, a woman of great courage.”

Nowadays, the couple have settled into a happy routine. They walk around the Village early in the morning before the heat of the day, and alternate with swimming in the heated pool in the complex. They go to a ‘Gentle Gym’ class once a week and use the gym equipment on other days when they can. Janice is a voracious reader, loves board games and still enjoys cooking.

Their three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren visit and Janice spends a day with her daughter each week.

They both attend the social functions in the Village and have found the community to be ‘terribly welcoming’ since arriving in August 2022.

“The Village life is absolutely perfect for us,” said Neil.

“People are always checking on us, asking after Janice and generally being supportive; we feel very lucky.”

Unfortunately, Janice is now suffering from Lewy Body dementia , a relatively common part of Parkinson’s, and one which is taking her disease to the next challenging stage.

“I admit that it has been an emotionally and psychologically brutal responsibility, but it has made me stronger. We know that we have each other and together we appreciate the life’s lessons it has delivered.” added Neil.

“My attitude to being a carer is that it doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

Washington Irving said “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark heart of adversity”.

“In her darkest hour Janice blazes quietly,” said Neil.

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