Larry Quintilio knows the pain of watching a loved one battle Alzheimer’s disease. His wife June was diagnosed several years ago, but even prior to that he began noticing changes in his wife.
Symptoms worsened although June didn’t initially want to seek medical attention.
“By 2005 or 2006, I knew something was wrong. But she thought she was getting a bit forgetful and that was it.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, which causes thinking and memory to become seriously impaired. It is the most common form of dementia. Today marks a key day for Alzheimer Societies across the country, as Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer Day. An open house at the local branch was set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It’s also that time of year when the Society’s main fundraiser, Coffee Break, gets underway. Folks gather in communities across Canada to raise funds for local Alzheimer Societies and participants make donations in exchange for a cup of coffee. The money raised stays in that province or community to help support programs and services.
Corporations, small businesses, hospitals, schools, service organizations, health-care facilities and private residences are examples of places to host coffee breaks. Coffee Breaks are held into October.
As for Larry, recalling the years of watching June’s struggle with the disease is acutely painful. The couple had always enjoyed a full and active life together. So coping with the changing behaviour and thinking patterns of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is continuously a challenge.
It can also be heartbreaking and exhausting. June was becoming increasingly confused, unsettled and fearful about her circumstances. And trying to reason with her just wasn’t effective after a while. As Larry points out, caregivers have to go where the loved one is in his or her own mind, and try to see what their perspective on a given situation is.
“In their minds, they are logical and they’ve thought it out,” he explains. “And you can’t change that. So you have to deal with them in that space.
“It’s like a cloud sometimes. One day it’s there, and the next day they’ll surprise you because they remember things.”
June is currently at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka. Thankfully, she knows her family so visits are all the more precious. And Larry speaks highly of the level of care his wife receives there. He’s also very grateful to the local branch of the Alzheimer Society and its regional manager Donna Durand in particular. Support groups and educational opportunities have helped ease the burden.
Resources and people ready to help are available, and Larry says they can make a tremendous difference. He hopes that those just starting out in their own journey of dealing with Alzheimer’s reach out for assistance.
“You’re with people who are dealing with the same things you are.”
In the meantime, Larry says a strong, supportive network of family and friends is crucial to coping. He’s also interested in helping others who are facing similar circumstances. There’s no question his sensitivity and empathy would go far in helping others.
“I think when you are helping someone else, you are helping yourself.”
For more information, call 403-346-4636 or visit www.alzheimer.ab.ca.