Hillsborough Disaster chaplain’s battle with dementia

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A hero of Hillsborough who comforted victims’ family and friends in the aftermath of the tragedy battled a heartbreaking form of dementia in his final years, a court heard.

Rev Gordon Wilson was chaplain to Sheffield Wednesday during the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 and played a valuable role in helping the bereaved come to terms with their grief.

During his distinguished career he also served as chaplain to other organisations including Sheffield Forgemasters and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

The 76-year-old died at Northern General Hospital in September last year following a five-year struggle with dementia.

Sheffield Coroners Court heard Rev Wilson was first diagnosed in 2009 after his family - who have since helped to promote the work of the Alzheimer’s Society - raised concerns about his memory.

Over the next few years his condition deteriorated considerably and in May 2014 he was eventually admitted to Grenoside Grange Hospital, which provides care to patients with the most challenging and complex forms of the illness.

The inquest heard mental health workers at the hospital experienced bouts of aggression from Rev Wilson. At times he would refuse medication and his appetite and intake of fluids fluctuated.

Rev Wilson’s son, Stephen, told the court in a statement that the family had raised concerns about his fluid intake as they suspected he was pouring his drinks out of the window.

Hedley Bishop, the mental health nurse who was assigned to Rev Wilson, said: “We take concerns very seriously. If he had poured fluids out of the window we would have ensured more were provided.

“There were times when he would take his medication when he was relaxed and not experiencing any distress, but there were other times when he was distressed or unhappy and he would refuse his medication. Staff would have ensured they monitored Mr Wilson’s intake.”

On August 16, Rev Wilson was transferred to Northern General Hospital suffering from dehydration and an acute kidney infection.

The court heard that on occasions six staff members were required to provide Rev Wilson with a basic level of care. He would become extremely aggressive when staff tried to wash or feed him and he knocked drinks out of their hands.

He died on September 8.

Recording a verdict of natural causes, Coroner Louise Slater said: “I’m satisfied that the chain of events leading up to Rev Wilson’s death were all as a result of the progression of the dementia. It had a significant effect on him and changed his personality considerably.”