Karlene and Bob Mossman are living proof that true love is unbreakable, no matter the challenges faced in life.
The couple, who live in Pelican Point, Western Australia, have been married for 63 years, an everlasting love story that began when they enlisted in the Australian Defence Force in the late 1950s.
Karlene enlisted in March 1959 and worked as a nurse while Bob was posted to the second battalion, Royal Australian regiment as a rifleman.
Meeting at an army club in February, 1960, the couple were instantly enamoured.
“Ours is a typical love story,” Bob recalls.
“Karlene was a 19-year-old army nurse; I was an 18-year-old infantry soldier.”
After dating for a few months, the couple knew they were destined to be together, and set about planning their wedding.
“The interesting part is Karlene had to get permission from her matron to get married because she was so young and I had to get permission from my commanding officer because I was only 18,” he says.
With no objections raised, the couple married in Liverpool, south-west of Sydney, in December, 1960, after which Bob was discharged from service, a mandatory custom in those days.
“In those days, Karlene, when we married, had to leave the army because that was the rule, but I stayed in the army for 24 years,” he says.
The newlyweds stayed in New South Wales for a number of years while Bob trained at the local parachute school, before becoming an instructor himself.
Over his two-and-a-half decades’ of service, Bob was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major, and served in the highly selective Special Air Service Regiment (SAS).
After retiring in 1979, the Mossmans moved back to Western Australia.
Raising three boys, the couple have lived a fulfilling life, but one that has not come without its significant challenges.
Karlene, despite retiring from army life, has encountered one of life’s most feared battles in later life.
“Unfortunately, Karlene has suffered with three different lots of cancers and has had very extensive chemo and radiation and has been quite a sick lady,” Bob says.
Determined to do all he could to support his beloved wife, he has worked as Karlene’s primary and full-time care for the last 14 years.
“Well, you get married for the long haul, don’t you,” Bob says.
Though his wife’s care needs have increased dramatically as her illness has progressed, Bob has been adamant that he would do everything in his power to keep Karlene safe, comfortable, and able to remain living in their family home.
The alternative, moving her into a residential aged care facility, was an unimaginable prospect.
“[The thought of it] was devastating, because, with the nature of her illness … I know that the people in residential aged care would not be able to do all the personal things I do for her.”
“For her to go into residential care, it would have to be an absolute last resort.
“I’d have to be virtually on my knees to let it happen.”
Thankfully, receiving a level four Home Care Package has allowed Bob to receive the addition support needed to care for Karlene, allowing the committed couple to continue ageing at home, on their own terms and, most importantly, together.
“The help we get, and the bit of help I get from Veterans Affairs, enables us to stay in our home,” he says.
“We’ve been lucky to have some wonderful support workers come to our home and we couldn’t have survived without them.”
For the last two-and-a-half years, Jasmine, a home care worker with Enrich Living, part of the myHomecare Group, has been assisting the Mossmans on a weekly basis, providing daily personal care services and six hours’ of respite on Tuesdays.
“Anything they need, I’m here to help, even if it’s just for company,” Jasmine tells Aged Care News.
During respite hours, Bob diligently attends to the weeks errands, and steals some recreational time here and there — but only when he knows his jobs are done and Karlene is looked after.
“You get into a routine and you try and use your respite time as best as you can,” he says.
“My rest time, to be honest with you, is virtually taking up with doing the shopping, chemist, paying bills, going to the bank.
“Occasionally I might be able to call in and see one of my old army mates and have a coffee.”
For Jasmine, who previously worked in residential aged care services for a decade, providing home support has made her much more satisfied with her career.
“The longer you can keep people at home, the better they are, and the happier they are,” she says.
Bob says that he is incredibly grateful to for work done by home care workers such as Jasmine.
“We’ve had our lovely Jas’ for a couple of years and she’s like our rock,” he says.
Staying at home also means being able to soak up the surrounds of their beautiful estate in Pelican Point, with the outdoor scenery a soothing addition to their daily routine.
“There’s a man-made lake with a bridge, and Karlene sits there in her chair.
“You can look out across the lake and see all the birds, such as swans and ibis, and it’s quite a pleasant outlook for her.”
With Valentine’s Day here, Bob offers couples across Australia some simple but sage advice on how to ensure your relationship or marriage endures across the decades.
“Never go to bed angry, and always kiss each other goodnight,” he says.
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