A nurse who has offered a lifeline to families of people living with dementia is has vowed to carry on after reaching her 70th birthday.

Maggie Langford is a much loved figure at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham  where, for more than two decades, she has been a lynchpin for relatives having to witness loved ones go through the emotional and physical trials of dementia and other illnesses.

Having reached the age of 70 at the end of 2023, she has decided to stay on offering the support and inspiration that so many families and her fellow staff have come to rely on.

Maggie, who lives in Gresford, said: “I love my job. I have no plan to retire yet. I will be here for families as long as they need me and feel I can contribute.”

She joined the award-winning Pendine Park 1998 and at first worked at its Cae Bryn residential home in Summerhill, Wrexham, before moving to the neighbouring Bodlondeb home which focuses on a range of dementia and mental health needs.

Bodlondeb manager Ann Chapman described Maggie as a long-time champion and an indefatigable ally for families enduring times of emotional crises, and a friend to all.

Originally hailing from the south Wales valleys Maggie entered nursing when she was aged 18, saying it was more than a job, but a vocation.

She trained in Wembley, then in Middlesex, London and later went on to spend some of her career working in South Africa and also the Isle of Man before she eventually joined Pendine Park.

She was at first recruited as a general nurse but when the role of a family liaison nurse was created, communicating and co-ordinating with families of existing residents and potential new residents, Maggie was the perfect choice for the job.

Her vast career experience and her own family life-experience has armed her with the empathy and understanding needed to interact with families as they make difficult decisions about loved ones who require full time support.

Both Maggie’s parents lived in care homes as they grew older and she appreciates the emotional conflicts involved in making such a move.

She said: “For family members, sons and daughters, the sense of guilt can be overwhelming, when there is no reason to feel guilty. It still weighs on your shoulders. They can feel that they are not doing enough or they have somehow failed their loved ones, but this is not the case.

“The debilitating effects of dementia are cruel to see and can put such a strain on carers that there comes a time when the professionals have to take over or the family members can themselves become ill with exhaustion and stress.

“I am here to talk with families, answer any questions they have, chat informally,  and offer a sounding board as they make ongoing decisions. Mental illnesses are invariably progressive and with each new stage comes different dilemmas. I am always here to talk things through and provide a consistent point of contact for families and friends of the person affected.”

Maggie has helped set up community groups so families going through similar crises can reach out to each other, as well as informative dementia workshops and social gatherings for relaxation.

She said: “Over the years I have made some good friends and the support groups we have created now have a life of their own, still meeting socially and offering an important hub of understanding for each other even on the occasions when I am not able to attend.”

One grateful family member, who sent a birthday greetings message to Maggie, said her commitment to her job was unparalleled.

Sarah Longhurst added: “I can’t think of a more dedicated person to the residents, staff, and relatives of Bodlondeb than Maggie. She is kind, patient, thoughtful, and supportive, and will go out of her way to ensure others have what they need.

“But more than that, she is cheerful when you need to smile, and full of empathy when you need to cry. As a relative, colleague, and friend, I would like to thank Maggie for all she does and has done over the years, and wish her the very happiest of birthdays.”

Bodlondeb manager Ann Chapman said Maggie was one in a million, an outstanding nurse and a caring person.

She said: “Over 20 years ago I met the formidable Maggie. She has been a constant to all our residents over many years, offering outstanding support to relatives and being a close friend of all residents. She is loyal and so freely giving of her time and efforts, all to help others. She always puts the needs of others before her own. We love her.”

Maggie has many friends among Pendine staff members for whom she has been an inspiration over the years and is godmother to the children of Bodlondeb deputy manager Arlene Elano.

Arlene said: “Maggie has helped me so much, her breadth of experience and expertise is incalculable. She is a great friend. We would all hugely miss her if she ever does decide to retire, but for now we are grateful she will be with us for a few more years yet.”