DARCE FARDY: Dementia and keeping life’s glass half full

Editor’s note: More than half a million Canadians are living with dementia. That number is expected to nearly double over the next decade.

As part of a special package for Alzheimer’s awareness month, The Chronicle Herald is offering readers a novel in e-book form that follows the story of an Atlantic Canadian family coping with dementia.

For a guy closing in on 86 and having dementia, there’s a fine line between pessimism and optimism. And I’m in dead centre. And I hope I can stay that way till the end. Pessimism helps no one.

Every day I notice the decline, physically as well as mentally. I am often tired but not from doing anything. I continue asking my wife Dorothea to repeat names for me, often in the same conversation the name was mentioned. That’s a patient woman.

Christmas posed a few challenges for me, as I tried to remember who gave me gifts and what they were. But having the whole family together for Christmas was a wonderful reward.

Dorothea managed to throw the annual Boxing Day party. Most of those invited are friends of Sheila, Peter and Donna, but they’re friends of ours, too. Most of those there I hadn’t seen since the last Boxing Day but none of them was uncomfortable and I appreciate that. I remembered many of them. Some provided gentle reminders. Some of them discussed their experience with dementia in their own family.

And I got a lot of hugs.

Recently, Dorothea and I did a video promoting the Alzheimer Society. It has been shown on CTV. One of the scenes had me serving Dorothea a cup of tea. I did it solemnly, not like I usually do, pouring hot water on a tea bag and taking it into the den. Donna thought it funny watching me sweep aside the sheer curtains on the living room window and getting away with it. Not usually done.

I don’t just put a good face on all this. I’m content knowing that when my dementia demobilizes my mind our family will help their mother through this. Daughter Donna and daughter-in-law Carol (a nurse) have been and are providing wonderful support every day. Peter keeps an eye on his mother and is her handyman … he’s there when needed. Sheila, our eldest, lives in Toronto. She stays with us while she’s here and in her own vibrant and irrepressible way takes a load off her mother’s shoulders.

On the very day I was diagnosed I stopped driving, relieving the family of that worry. Some time ago, son Peter noticed I was writing a story for my grandchildren. I always wished I knew about my grandparents’ lives. He had a number of hard-covered copies printed and each grandchild was given one.

My bet is none has read it yet but I think they will. The crew that produced the CTV spot that we did for the Alzheimer Society included a shot of that book.

Some time ago, in the early stages, Dorothea and I agreed to go public when asked to sit for an interview with CBC radio host Anna Maria Tremonti. We think that was a good decision.

I read recently that the average lifespan is 82 years. I’ll be 86 in a few months. For someone with deepening dementia there must be good news there.


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