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Robert and Joan – A Love Story


This year, we played a part in the final chapter of a beautiful love story.

Robert and Joan – Part 1

Robert and Joan Derbyshire were married in 1948. He was 19 and she 18. Family members were not supportive of their union, saying that it would never last. That didn’t matter. They were in love.

In the 71 years that followed, the couple had five children. Robert went back to school and got his G.E.D. Eventually, he earned his PhD in Psychiatry.

“It was all because of Joan,” he said. “She would type all my papers and correct my millions of errors.”

As we countdown to Giving Tuesday on December 1, we’re going to share Robert and Joan’s love story a piece at a time because it’s one that needs to be shared, one that needs to be cherished, and one that needs to live on through others.



Robert and Joan – Part 2

Robert taught and worked other jobs while Joan raised the kids. In 1972, he went into private practice. In 1997, Robert retired, and the couple moved to Florida.

Gradually, Robert noticed something just wasn’t right. Joan started having problems. In 2008, Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I had difficulty with it when she first started to have real problems,” Robert said. “And I’d catch myself yelling at her. I felt terrible about that. At night time I would say, ‘Now stay in bed and wake me up if you want to go to the bathroom.’ She wouldn’t wake me up and she’d fall on the floor, and I’d have to pick her up. And I’d get upset with her because she didn’t wake me up. She didn’t know to wake me up. I didn’t know she didn’t know, but she didn’t know. And it took a while before I finally learned to say, ‘Life will be so much easier if I climb into her space instead of asking her to climb into my space.’ And that worked.”

As we count down to Giving Tuesday on December 1, join us as we continue Robert and Joan’s love story.


Robert and Joan – Part 3

In 2011, Robert and Joan moved into a senior independent living community north of Wilmington, where he cared for Joan for another four years, before her care necessitated her move to a skilled nursing facility long-term care unit.

When Joan first moved to the skilled nursing facility, it was hard, Robert said.

“Joan would always say, ‘Take me home.’ It was unbearable.

During his many years of caregiving, with his focus on Joan, Robert said he neglected to care for himself. His heart conditioned worsened and he knew he could no longer live on his own.

He was lucky when a room came open in the same long-term care unit, and on the same hall as Joan. He could see Joan every day, during meals and events or just sitting in the unit’s living room.

Join us on Giving Tuesday for the last installment of our story. Text content


Robert and Joan – Part 4

“I’m happy that Joan is here, she’s happy to be here now,” Robert continued. “She accepts it, and as long as she accepts it, I can handle it.”

Robert came on hospice care with Lower Cape Fear LifeCare in December 2018, and Joan in July 2019. He and Joan were together every day until she died in April of this year. Robert joined Joan exactly six weeks later in June.

Robert always talked about the wonderful care he got with Lower Cape Fear LifeCare. We like to think it was that care that helped Robert fulfill his ultimate goal of taking care of Joan. We know that it improved his quality of life and helped allow him to spend as much time with her as possible.

Everyone deserves a love story like Robert and Joan.

That’s where you come in. Your generous donation helps us provide care and support to individuals and families so that whatever time is left, when living with a life-limiting illness, they can concentrate on just being together and getting the most out of every moment. Just like Robert and Joan.


Today, on Giving Tuesday, won’t you consider making a gift and help us make sure others get the final chapter they deserve? Your gift will make a huge difference in their lives and maybe even help them live out their very own love story.





Lower Cape Fear LifeCare is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to the highest quality LifeCare, education, and supportive services to our patients, their families, and the communities we serve.


Hospice Honors

United Way

On January 1, 2020, Lower Cape Fear Hospice formally changed its name to Lower Cape Fear LifeCare to better represent the spectrum of care and support they provide those in our community.