A dementia diagnosis leads to an extremely challenging journey, says a Red Deer County man whose wife has the disease.
Terry Rudge and his wife Jean were living in Manitoba when they first started noticing signs.
“Jean began to experience small things, like losing her keys, losing her purse, repeating things, telling the same story, forgetting what day of the week it was,” Terry said.
In 2015, Jean was diagnosed with dementia.
Following the diagnosis, the Rudges, who got married in 1970, moved to Red Deer, where one of their two sons lives. Their other son lives in Edmonton and their daughter’s home is in Toronto.
January is Alzheimer Awareness Month. More than 560,000 Canadians, and roughly 46,000 Albertans, have been diagnosed with dementia.
Terry said once Jean was diagnosed, their lives were “suddenly” changed.
“I never really knew what would happen each day. There are so many things when dealing with someone with dementia that are not always predictable,” he said.
“My wife is starting to get in the late stages of it, but she could continue in that for a considerable number of months or maybe years. We just don’t know.”
Jean now lives in the Hamlets at Red Deer in Gasoline Alley and continues to struggle, said Terry.
“Her memory is becoming worse and worse. She can’t remember things that are more than immediate – she forgets it almost instantly,” said Terry.
Jean’s disease has taken a toll on Terry as well, he added.
“Now that she’s in the home, one of the biggest challenges is the fact that in the evening, I’m there alone in my apartment,” he said.
“There are a number of evenings where you’re looking at the four walls. You miss that interaction you’ve had with your spouse for over 50 years.
“I used to get the newspaper in the morning. We would crawl back into bed and divvy up the sections, read and discuss what was in the paper.
“That doesn’t happen anymore. Jean has become less and less verbal, so when spending time with her, sometimes you’re just happy you can reach over and touch her arm.”
Terry said he has been “fortunate” for the support he’s received from the Alzheimer Society and family over the past few years.
Through Alzeheimer Awareness Month, the society is running a campaign to remove the stigma surrounding dementia.
“We’ve been trying to challenge the public to learn more about what it’s like to live with dementia,” said Michele Mulder, the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories’ CEO.
“Three years ago, we started this campaign, and at the time, we did a cross-Canada survey that pretty much told us what we knew, which is that one in four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell others if they had a dementia diagnosis.”
The society will conduct another survey in the future and “hopes the needle has been moved to reduce the stigma,” said Mulder.
More stories can be found at www.ilivewithdementia.ca.