Love continues for couple despite diagnosis

dave2While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is not considered good news, it does allow families to get help and start planning for the future. Living in Bancroft, even though it is an economically depressed region, we actually have some good resources available to support patients, families and caregivers as they move through the different stages of the disease.

But none of these supports will come together without that key diagnosis.

Dave Earle spends most days at the North Hastings Centennial Manor. He goes to spend time with the love of his life, his wife Joan. And Joan loves the company.

Dave and Joan sit together in front of the fire in the lobby at the Manor. Dave knows everyone’s name and he’s quick to help any of the residents who might need a hand. He and the other spouses who visit the Manor play an important part in making this long term care facility feel like home. And while no facility is perfect, there is nothing but praise from Dave Earle.

Moving to a quiet lounge to chat, Dave pushes Joan in her chair and we move through the bright, clean hallways. Everyone shares greetings and everyone is on a first name basis.

“I’m more at home here than I am in my own home,” Dave explains.

He’s here for holiday meals and other celebrations and he’s here to live life with Joan in the best way they can.

“Long term care isn’t like the stereotype,” Dave says. “There aren’t just old people here and the people who are here can still contribute.”

Joan nods and smiles at her husband.

Joan was diagnosed in 2009 and it was not an easy process. She had been having difficulty with balance and mobility and she was young. Dave was floored when doctors told him that Joan had a form of dementia. And when he tried to care for her at home he faced what many caregivers face – he went into crisis.

But luckily for Dave, friends and neighbours got involved. One connected him with the Bancroft office of the Belleville Hastings Quinte Alzheimer Society and he found immediate support, information and understanding.

Having Joan at home took a toll on Dave. He couldn’t sleep and Joan required lots of physical assistance. The homecare worker who was assisting with visits in the home quickly became more concerned with Dave than with Joan. So with support from friends and family and the Alzheimer Society, Dave made the difficult decision to have Joan placed in long term care. She spent two years in other homes before finally getting a bed in Bancroft three years ago. Dave says life has been more manageable since she came back to Bancroft.

“This is a great place and they offer really stimulating activities – things for the body and to stimulate the mind and they go on outings,” Dave says. “Joan loves to sing and the staff sings to Joan. It’s a good feeling to know how good the staff is here.”

Dave acknowledges that as more and more cuts are made in long term care, that it takes a special person to keep working and giving of themselves, from the heart, each day. But that’s what’s happening at the Manor and it has allowed for a better quality of life for this couple.

“This is tough but Joan says she loves me and I think we’ve grown closer,” Dave says.

Dave thinks of the other spouses he has met here that share similar circumstances. He speaks fondly of them. They spend time together at the Manor and they connect at a support group run by Sarah Krieger, the Education and Support Coordinator in Bancroft.

Sarah is part of the support system that keeps Dave staying positive and staying engaged in the caring process. She is always an email or a phone call away and she, as those who are supported by her say, is always going above and beyond to make things a bit better for those living with this difficult disease.

As for getting an early diagnosis, Dave encourages others to engage with their doctor and keep asking for answers.

“Make them aware of what you are seeing and of your concerns,” Dave says. “It can take a long time for a spouse to notice but when you do – speak to your doctor and then get in touch with the Alzheimer Society.”

Joan and Dave are holding hands. They are both relaxed and it feels like this is their home. The hard decisions have been made and while this is not the life that they would have chosen, Dave remains positive and acknowledges that support from friends, family, Manor staff and the Alzheimer Society have helped him stay positive.

“Last night there were three couples sitting by the fireplace,” Dave says. “We were in stitches. It was great.”

Joan nods and looks up.

“I love my husband,” Joan says. “He’s good to me.”

The Walk for Memories runs on Saturday January 18th from 9am to 1 pm at the North Hastings High School in Bancroft. The event will feature music, massage, face painting, a photo booth, manicures, a poker walk and a free Zumba class for those who like to dance. There will also be a memory tree set up for those who wish to share a photo or a memento during the walk. There will also be an amazing silent auction.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Walk for Memories, to have a great day and to make happy memories while helping others in our community.


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