It was love at first sight when Sandy met Doug. They had both ended long marriages. They shared a passion for work, a love of travel, and had compatible plans for retirement. They clicked instantly.
The McLean’s married two years later and were in the midst of living the lives they’d dreamed of when Doug, a top executive, lost his job because of increased anxiety and diminishing cognitive abilities.
Things didn’t get better. Doug became depressed and delusional. He could no longer tell time or do math, and he struggled with his memory.
So they began looking for answers. Over the next three years, Doug and Sandy went to doctor after doctor without a definitive diagnosis. It wasn’t until a second neurological test that Doug was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia and immediately put on the right medications. Finally, his symptoms were manageable and the McLean’s were able to fulfill some of their travel dreams.
At 60, Doug is fit and physically active, and is keen to continue life to the fullest. Being active is good for him, but it’s a challenge for Sandy. Doug needs safe, non-judgmental environments, and many activity programs for people with dementia are for seniors 65 and older. Doug doesn’t feel like he fits in.
Sandy is his 24/7 caregiver and advocate. She makes sure Doug keeps busy and plans all of his activities. But that doesn’t leave much time for herself. And, that dream of moving into a house they built outside of their city has been gently let go.
The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba has been a lifeline for Sandy and Doug, offering activities, resources and support services. But we can do so much more.
Donate today so that we can better support caregivers like Sandy and fund vital research to eliminate this disease and its impact on Canadians like Doug. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz
When it comes to visiting Mom, I like the normal days, where my only expectation is to “connect” with my mom. The days I don’t like are holidays: birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Family Day – they all remind me of better times. I feel so overwhelmed by the Mom I have lost, that I don’t have the energy to “find” the Mom who is left behind.
On these occasions I enlist my family members or friends to come with me. I let them know I’m feeling low and I say, “I need you with me so I can face this without ruining it for Mom.” Usually, that is just enough to push me past the tough part and enjoy the visit.
Another thing is keeping it simple. The less elaborate the plans, the less deep the disappointment when she is not having a good day or doesn’t respond the way I had hope she would
Sharon Osvald, caregiver
Days like Family Day can be difficult. You never know whether your friend or family member is going to have a good or bad day. Regardless of what you have planned, following these tips can help improve communication for any visit:
- Introduce yourself, even if it feels awkward.
- Use humour and smile.
- Don’t argue.
- Go at her pace.
- Use visual cues and gestures for direction.
- Accept inappropriate answers or nonsense words. Don’t correct his ideas.
- Don’t ask: “Don’t you remember?
Other resources for families
“The holidays can be a tough time of year for caregivers. The business of the season, gatherings with friends and family and the fact that many day programs close present challenges.
To caregivers, I have some simple advice for you: Plan ahead to help someone with dementia and yourself get the most out of the holidays. Nobody is going to do it for you.”
Sharon Rozsel, caregiver for her mother
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario knows that for people with dementia and their caregivers, the holidays can bring stress, sense of loss, tension and sadness. To help ease these difficulties and make the most of the holiday season, we have created a new holiday page on our website, complete with tips and other resources. Each week, we will add a tip sheet on timely topics such as:
- Gift ideas for people with dementia.
- Making the house safe for someone with dementia.
- Visiting someone with dementia over the holidays.
- How to make the holidays special for someone with dementia.
- How caregivers can better care for themselves.
Here’s a sample:
If you are gift shopping for someone in the early stage of the disease, give a present that will encourage the maintenance of certain abilities and slow the progression of the disease. If they are in the later stages, look for gifts that provide sensory stimulation and help bring back pleasant memories, like a CD of their favourite music.