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Caring for Ralph – A Care Journey

Thank you to Pat Helle for sharing your family’s journey. Caring for a loved one living with dementia is a difficult road to travel but with supports along the way it is not a journey travelled alone.

Ralph was born May 14, 1931. We were married July 18, 1963 and had seven children, two boys and five girls. We lost an infant son to jaundice and a boy (13) and a girl (10) to drowning accidents, so we were left with four girls. They have been a real blessing these last nine years for sure.

When Ralph was eighty, we had an open house birthday party for him with family, friends and neighbours. He was pretty good at that time, but soon after there was a day here and there that there was confusion – not much to begin with, but as time went by, what used to be a poor day was now a good day. Sometimes on a better day he would say, “There’s something wrong with my head. It doesn’t seem to be working right.”

By the time we reached the third year, the confusion was getting worse and by then he was suffering from sundowners. The girls by now were really noticing a change in their dad and I was so sure that I could manage. I realize now that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In December 2014, we had a doctor appointment. They asked us to come back after Christmas, which we did. I was reading all the information on dementia I could get my hands on. In January 2015, the doctor said Stone Brook, a brand new ASLS (Care) home, would be a good fit for him.

On February 26, 2015, Ralph moved into Stone Brook. During the last six months he was home, I spent most of my time crying – so sure that I had failed him in every way, shape and form. By this time, he was very unsure of where he was or who we were. Shortly after he went to Stone Brook, he quit walking and feeding himself.

The day Ralph went to Stone Brook, there was a girl named Christine working. She was a mentor and trained new staff. On February 26, 2021, Ralph will have been at Stone Brook six years. The first five years have had ups and downs, with Ralph gradually going downhill over time. In January 2020, we lost our dear mentor Christine to cancer. Stone Brook was a very sad place at that time. We lost a real gem.

Then in March, COVID hit. What a nightmare. To this point, we have avoided any outbreaks; however, quarantine is really hard on seniors.

I am so happy that Ralph is close to home. I see him every day and give him his dinner. Our girls and their families saw him every chance they got up until COVID hit. I am so thankful to the Alzheimer’s Support Group, past and present Stone Brook Staff, Home Care, and the doctors. Ralph now spends most of his time sleeping, but still has the odd smile and may even use the odd swear word. He still is able to eat pretty well most days.

The morning I took Ralph to Stone Brook, I promised I would come visit and I have. One gets very attached to the other residents too. They may have forgotten who you are, but you know who they are. Every day in Stone Brook’s Poppy Lane is different, but our time there is very rewarding.

If you or someone you love is experiencing the onset of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease please reach out to your family doctor for help. More information and available supports can be found at the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, Alberta Health Services, and MyHealth.Alberta.ca.