January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time for reflection and setting goals for the future. With people affected by dementia facing more social isolation than ever, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is bringing the community together to ask what we want the future to look like for people living with dementia, for caregivers – and ultimately for everyone.
Throughout January, people across the province are sharing their experiences and hopes for the future: people like Geri Hinton of Victoria, who has tirelessly advocated for a better future for everyone affected by the disease because of her own experience caring for her husband Peter.
A naval officer who first enlisted in 1940 – going on to be one of the youngest Canadians to command a landing craft on D-Day – Peter lived on the water whether he was working or not. And it was on the water that he and Geri realized he had a serious problem.
“We were in the middle of the ocean and I could hear him banging around in the cabin,” Geri says. “He couldn’t find a piece of equipment that was right in front of me. That’s when I knew something was wrong.” It wasn’t the first indication of a problem, but it was the biggest, and it was still a shock.
Geri connected with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. where Peter joined a support group for people in the early stages of dementia and Geri built a support group of her own with other spouses.
Initially, Geri continued to work, leaving Peter lunch every day. Until one day, she came home and realized he was forgetting to eat. She retired shortly after, intent on keeping him at home for as long as possible.
Peter was able to remain at home for five more years, until a fall resulted in the need for him to move into a care home. This transition proved to be one of the most difficult parts of the journey, but Geri made it her mission to remain a constant support for Peter. She visited the care home every day, and in the process, became familiar with the other residents and learned from their experiences as well.
Since Peter’s death in 2008, Geri has become a fierce advocate for people on the dementia journey. Her experience with Peter has highlighted the importance of people living with the disease having compassionate, appropriate care. She is acutely aware of the challenges facing people currently caring for someone living with dementia in long-term care, many who are isolated because they aren’t able to get essential visitor status. “I don’t know what we would have done – not being able to see each other – if Peter was in care now,” Geri says.
Take action and change the future
As part of the awareness campaign, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is hosting a free webinar on advocacy and long-term care, “Raise your voice: Dementia, long-term care and COVID-19,” at 2 p.m. on January 27. Experts and people with lived experience will discuss the challenges of balancing public health concerns with ensuring that families can support people living in long-term care to help them stay active and engaged.
To register for the webinar, learn more about the experiences of British Columbians affected by dementia and help change the conversation – and the future – for families on the journey, visit alzbc.org/future.
The Alzheimer Society of B.C. can help
If you have questions or concerns about dementia or someone living with dementia in your care, call the First Link® Dementia Helpline. The helpline offers free, confidential support which is available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. in English (1-800-936-6033) and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Cantonese or Mandarin (1-833-674-5007) and Punjabi (1-833-674-5003).