Currently 47.5 million people worldwide are living with dementia. This number is more than the total population of Canada. By 2031 it is estimated that 1.4 million Canadians will be living with this disease.
Although a diagnosis of dementia can come as a shock not only for the person, but for the family as well, there are resources to support living a happy and healthy day-to-day life.
Boz Carter is a doting grandfather, a greeter at his church and a huge Boston Bruins fan. He is also someone living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Dementia doesn’t define us,” says his wife Cathy Hurd Carter, 53. “That’s been our mantra from the beginning.”
The Winnipeg couple adopted the mantra shortly after Carter’s 2012 diagnosis. Almost immediately, they enrolled themselves in an eight-week course with their local Alzheimer Society to learn how to plan for their future with the disease. Hurd Carter says it helped them understand they didn’t have to look backward to hang on to what they have. “We can move forward with this disease and still live life,” she comments.
While it took some educating on her part, church officials were happy to have her husband volunteer as a greeter.
That was especially important to Carter, 60, who was fired from his job as a stock clerk when he became ill. The experience left him feeling “broken and useless,” says Hurd Carter.
While they refuse to let the disease define them, they also know they have to make changes in their lives. Carter has good and bad days and they adjust their plans accordingly.
Hurd Carter, who is on leave from her job as a family crisis worker, wants to keep her husband at home with her as long as possible. That way, she can greet him each morning in their accustomed way – staring into his face and telling him “Good morning. I love you.”
“I know it’s not this way for everyone, but he reflects back whatever he gets from the world,” she adds.
Life doesn’t end when Alzheimer’s begins. Be there for those who are #StillHere. More information is available at www.alzheimer.ca/stillhere.