Bill Reekie and his then-four-year-old granddaughter Lily. Photo contributed

Bill Reekie and his then-four-year-old granddaughter Lily. Photo contributed

Alzheimer’s: beginning the Unplanned Journey

Watch for the signs and reach out for the help that is available

When my husband, Bill, was 55-years-old, I went to our family doctor and told him I thought he might have dementia.

The lump in my throat was so thick I could barely get the words out, and as soon as they were spoken I felt both regret and relief. Regret that I couldn’t take them back. That now it was real. Relief that now it was real because maybe there was hope. Hope that something could be done to stop, or at least slow the progress of what I already knew was a disease that killed.

Our doctor looked at me with some compassion. We talked, or should I say he talked; I listened. If Bill agreed, the doctor said, he would refer us to the Seniors’ Outreach team. They would come to our house, where Bill would feel safe, to assess him. I said I would talk to Bill.

“Don’t worry,” our doctor said, “everyone loses their keys.”

But I knew he knew it was beyond that.

RELATED: Vancouver Island sisters go viral on TikTok for early onset dementia awareness efforts

RELATED: Former Comox hospital turning into Vancouver Island’s first ‘dementia village’

Don’t worry!

“Okay,” Bill said when I told him what I’d done.

And I could see the relief on his face. Like me, he’d known there was something seriously wrong. But until that day, neither of us spoke about what had slowly been becoming obvious for probably two years. Bill was having increasing problems learning new budget programs at work. At home he had difficulty following step-by-step instructions and lost his ability to do some tasks he’d done many times before. Minutes after something had been said to him, he’d begun to repeat statements as if they were things he’d just thought of. Tasks were left undone, either because he couldn’t do them or he’d forgotten they needed to be done.

He was a born diplomat. He’d always had a slow-burning fuse, but his fuse was getting pretty short, and mine — never long — was becoming explosive. I thought he was being bloody minded. He thought I was…I’m not sure what he thought. We hadn’t talked.

We’d skirted the issues by trying to ignore them. By making changes to our lifestyle that were insidious because they were made with resentment on both our parts. And that led to more and more frequent arguments. We’d separated for some weeks; talked about divorce.

Each of us was afraid of the same things. If Bill had dementia, we would have to take on roles we were not suited for. For instance, I’d had to learn to install new bathroom taps, a home-maintenance job he’d always done.

For over 30 years, he had been a ‘boss.’ In charge of facilities with dozens of staff and budgets in the millions. He would lose control. Of his job, of his health, of his life. I’d had various jobs — all dependent on my ability to come and go as I liked.

There was stigma attached to that sort of illness. We would lose our standing in the community. Our friends. Possibly our families. And one another. There was no cure. So, best not to talk about what was happening. Ignore it, or call it stress.

But that day the dam burst. Or the floodgates were opened. Whichever metaphor you prefer. That day we began to talk about what was really going on. To look our demons in the eye and begin to conquer them. To assess. To plan. To find out what help was available.

To reach out. To grow.

According to a 2018-2019 report on the Canadian Alzheimer Society’s website, 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year. Over 500,000 Canadians are living with dementia, and within 12 years, 937,000 Canadians will have dementia. It’s a worldwide pandemic. Like cancer is an umbrella term for hundreds of types of that disease, over 120 different types of dementia have been identified to date.

So, like cancer, the onset of symptoms for dementia differs for the different types. And as with any disease, it’s different again for different individuals. However, there are signposts that are common to many types.

If you think you have dementia, or a loved one has it, you don’t have to go through it alone. There is help.

You can talk to your family doctor. A thorough physical exam might reveal another cause for whatever the symptoms are. If the cause is some form of dementia, your doctor can refer you to the appropriate health care professionals.

Or you can refer yourself by calling 1-866-928-4988 and speaking to the intake person for Island Health. When you explain your problem, Intake will then refer you to the appropriate people for help.

Please don’t suffer alone. Reach out for help.

Jocelyn Reekie’s husband had Alzheimer’s disease and together the Campbell River couple lived with it for 15 years. January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. For more information on the disease visit the Alzheimer Society of BC website. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Just Posted

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(File photo)
Island conservation group says members targeted with harassment, vandalism

Police investigate pair of reports of mischief victims call pushback against conservation efforts

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Nanaimo sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Whispers Adult Superstore overnight Feb. 21

Sooke Lake Reservoir, shown here, is the primary storage site for Greater Victoria’s drinking water supply. The Capital Regional District just purchased a property on the north edge of the water supply area to help further protect the supply. (Photo courtesy CRD)
CRD acquires 58.7-hectare watershed to further protect Greater Victoria drinking water supply

Forested area near Grant Lake is part of the Cowichan Valley Regional District

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read