This weekend the annual Walk for Memories is being held in Nelson with a focus on the caregivers that support those with the illness.
Caregivers are courageous individuals who improve quality of life for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. They may be spouses, children, family members, friends or paid professionals. Many provide ongoing and around-the-clock care to aging family members on top of holding a job and raising children, sometimes to the detriment of their own health and well being.
Robert Read, 61, has been caring for his wife Margo for nine years. Today, at 60-years-old, she is at the end of her battle with Alzheimers. It has been a long journey for the couple who’s been together for 39 years.
“When we actually found out and came home, we just sat down and made promises to each other. I promised to keep her with me as long as I could,” he said. “It’s very daunting and there’s no cure but we took it one day at a time with a strong glimpse on the future.”
Read speaks of Alzheimer Society’s motto “Walk, plan, learn.” It may seem simple but the words resonated with the couple that stayed active, hiking and enjoying their time together.
Prior to Margo’s diagnosis, the couple knew little about Alzheimer’s. Read has since learned about the disease, reading but mostly through living it.
“You are really not prepared, and cannot be prepared for such an experience,” he said.
At year six of the illness, Read became fatigued and Margo moved into Mountain Lakes.
“You start to really go down,” he said. “I was struggling to take care of Margo. I needed to let Margo go.”
Each person who cares for someone with dementia will experience the challenges associated with the disease in their own unique way. In the early days of diagnosis, caregivers often work hard to continue life as normally as possible. After a couple years, it becomes harder and harder to keep on top of things.
In the next year, emotional and physical resources are drained as care giving consumes them day and night. Caregivers start to feel powerless. Stress becomes harder to conceal. They become irritable and have difficulty sleeping. After about five years, burnout is systemic.
This is where professional caregivers step in. Simon Grypma has great respect and appreciation for the work done at Mountain Lakes Seniors Home, Jubilee Manor and Broader Horizons.
“My personal experience with my father and the unselfish care he received has left a lasting impression on my entire family,” he said.
“The care givers are truly a gift to those suffering from this horrible disease that affects so many of our family members in our community. Caregivers truly deserve our recognition and support.”
Today, Margo is back home with her husband and looked after with the support of a care team. Taking care of himself so Read can take care of Margo is a priority. He gets massage, eats well and exercises.
“Truly, I take care of myself as much as I can,” said Read.
The Alzheimer Society of BC also provides support and information. Read attends meetings where “people can feel that they’re not alone.”
“Around the table were eight of us,” he said.
“Everyone was in a different part of the journey and in every one of those people, I could see in their eyes the commitment and the love and how difficult it is.”
The Walk is being held at the Nelson and District Community Complex on Sunday, with registration at 9 a.m. and the walk starting at 10 a.m.
For more information call 250-951-9163.