When Mick Wicks wants to cook a special meal, he turns to his computer and refers to the recipe file he’s created. He’s an expert at whipping up something different for dinner - often with garlic and sauces - and he keeps a careful record of all his favourite dishes.
But Mick’s not a chef - three years ago he became a carer to his wife, Shirley, and since then he’s become something of an expert in all things domestic. The world of housework, washing machines and cooking was quite alien to Mick until Shirley, who has been by his side for 59 years, developed Parkinson’s. Mick and Shirley were typical of most people of their generation - he dealt with the maintenance, decorating and gardening and Shirley did the washing, cleaning and cooking.
Life changed with Shirley’s diagnosis and now the tables have turned and Mick’s taken over most of the household chores. Mick has joined the Yours Carers in Touch scheme to encourage other men that it is possible to learn to be domesticated - whatever your age!
‘In many ways I think it’s probably more difficult for a man to adapt to life as a carer than it is for a woman,’ says Mick. ‘Men of my generation didn’t know the rules for separating whites from colours for the washing machine. Well I do now!’
Like many other carers, Mick has embraced his role in looking after Shirley and the couple have both been determined not to let Parkinson’s ruin their lives. 'Routine and being organised are probably the two things I’ve had to learn,’ says Mick. ‘Shirley keeps me on my toes if she sees some dust around. I don’t mind a few cobwebs because spiders need homes but Shirley doesn’t agree. I’d also love to meet the person who invented the duvet cover. Getting a duvet into a large sack is not something I enjoy!’
Shirley’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s came after she had a problem with her shoulder and found she couldn’t write very well, but from day one the devoted couple vowed to keep on enjoying life.
The only concession they have made to Shirley’s condition is that they’ve given up caravanning - something they enjoyed across Europe for 30 years. However they still take plenty of UK holidays and lead very full lives, still enjoying sequence dancing every week.
‘Shirley is a bit unsteady but we still dance. We don’t do all the routines so we tell other people not to watch us otherwise the whole dance could go wrong,’ says Mick. ‘We met on the dance floor so we’ve decided that something like pesky Parkinson’s shouldn’t stop us.’
They both play bridge, Shirley does pilates at a Parkinson’s group and they enjoy pub lunches with friends. Every night while the evening meal is in the oven, they play scrabble. Mick says although he never lets Shirley win, he’s delighted when she does. ‘I happily lose because it’s a good sign that Shirley’s brain is still very active,’ he says.
‘There can’t be a better job than looking after your partner. Shirley may have Parkinson’s but it doesn’t stop us doing things. We just get hold of life and enjoy it as best as we can.’
Mick says there’s no better job than looking after wife Shirley