Letters to the Editor

Alzheimer statistics don't tell the story

George Garrett and his wife Joan in their Boundary Park home. The couple has been struggling with Joan’s onset of Alzheimer’s disease. - Evan Seal / The Leader
George Garrett and his wife Joan in their Boundary Park home. The couple has been struggling with Joan’s onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

The numbers are high – 70,000 people in B.C. are living with Alzheimer’s disease. While the statistics are important, they don’t begin to tell the story of the impact to the person living with the disease and his or her family.

My wife Joan was diagnosed with the disease in 2010. To say that it is a progressive-degenerative disease is a medical term. The reality is much worse.

Over the span of months, weeks and even days, you can see the devastating effects. Happily married for 56 years, our lives have turned into something that I could never have imagined.

A loving and caring person has evolved at times into a person I scarcely recognize, often angry, accusatory and confused.

Hallucinations are a part of every day.  Someone is taking her jewelry, her lipstick, her clothing. Someone else is in the house. She looks in the mirror and sees a reflection that she does not recognize.

It’s “that woman” and she wants her out of here.

Caregivers hired to come into the home are sometimes regarded with suspicion and even ordered out of the house.

Trips to daycare facilities are resisted but overcome. Tears are frequent. There is understandable fear of the unknown. She will ask, “What’s going to happen to me?” We cannot bring ourselves to answer the question truthfully.

Seventy-thousand people in B.C. may have Alzheimer’s but the disease affects so many more people. Among them are the principal caregiver, children, grandchildren and friends. Without family and friends, the ordeal for the caregiver would be an impossible undertaking.

In my case I am grateful to my daughters Linda and Lorrie and their families and to our many friends who have shown compassion and understanding. Friends do mean a lot in times of stress. A simple phone call is all that it takes. If you know of a friend with Alzheimer’s in the family… give them a call.  It means so much.

One in three people knows someone with dementia. Who do you know? Whether you have a direct connection or not, during Alzheimer Awareness Month you can show your support by participating in the Investors Group Walk for Memories.

There are 23 walks taking place across B.C. on Sunday, Jan. 27 to raise funds for local community education and support programs, as well as to fund research for a cure.

To register for or to donate to the Walk in White Rock, Surrey or Delta, visit www.walkformemories.com

We need your help.

 

George Garrett

(loving husband and caregiver for Joan Garrett)

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