The poet composing a poem a day for his ‘beautiful’ wife, who battled Alzheimer’s

Stanley Fine is also raising funds for Dementia UK


Sammy and Ruth Fine (Credit: Courtesy)

Despite spending 63 years together, Ruth did not recognise her husband towards the end of her life.

She had first met Sammy Fine at primary school when she was five years old and he was seven, and Sammy was the brother of her best friend. After Ruth and Sammy got married, they spent many happy decades together.

Ruth was “outstandingly beautiful”, Sammy, 86, tells the JC. “You can ask anyone. They used to say: ‘That Ruth Adelman, wow!’ She was London’s Elizabeth Taylor.”

Ruth became a hairdresser and tennis coach and was “very popular; she never had any enemies,” Sammy says. But in 2011, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Sammy says: “It’s such a frightening disease that for the first year or so, people are in denial, as was she, and you ascribe incidents to just being senior moments.”

Sammy eventually took Ruth to a psychiatrist on the advice of a friend, where she was diagnosed. Not long afterwards, Sammy found his wife on the kitchen floor, hundreds of tissues spread out around her, and she asked him: “What will happen to me when I can’t remember you?”

It was in that moment, that Sammy, a talented poet, promised his wife he would compose a poem every single day for her.

“The first two years weren’t that bad,” Sammy said, “But in the last few years, as the disease progressed, it was a true headache and unimaginably difficult. I was a complete wreck looking after her.”

Ruth increasingly entered states of confusion and became prone to violent outbursts. Sammy was forced to put her into respite in Hendon in 2015, before moving her to Jewish Care’s Kun Mor and George Kiss Home.

During the last few years of Ruth’s life, Jewish Care staff and Dementia UK’s Admiral nurses – named after a Jewish dementia patient, Joseph Levy, affectionately known as ‘Admiral Joe’ – were “absolutely brilliant even under enormous pressure”, Sammy says. “Even if it’s your best friend or most loved one, you can’t cope with someone who’s deep into dementia on your own. There is no respite.”

Ruth eventually lost her speech altogether and communicated only through body language.

At first, Sammy visited his wife every single day, which became three times a week, and then less frequently still, as her recognition of Sammy slipped away. He said: “I would sit there with her for hours like an absolute stranger, no recognition or interaction at all.”

Sammy continues to compose poems, publishing them on an Instagram page, @sammys.inspirational.poems, set up by a friend. He also has a JustGiving page to raise money for Dementia UK in memory of his “beloved wife and childhood sweetheart”, who passed away on November 29 2020.

His poems deal with myriad subjects, some “grim, some beautiful, but always hopeful”. One series, But I am your Sammy, is inspired by the words he found himself saying to his wife more and more in the last five years of her life. Another is If I could only have one more day where we could both understand.

Sammy warns that being in denial of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s helps no one. He advises: “If Alzheimer’s becomes part of your family, the main thing is to get some help as soon as there are any signs of mood changes or confusion. Because it seems we have drugs which will slow down the progression, early diagnosis is key.”

Sammy’s Just Giving page can be found here.


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