WINNIPEG, MB. - A positive approach to life helps people with dementia and their family members to manage the inevitable changes that occur at different stages of the condition.
A couple from Steinbach, Manitoba, takes that positivity to heart. Both Dorothy Poetker and her husband, Jake (who has Alzheimer’s disease), live one day at a time, and they make sure to enjoy every minute.
“I am a patient person,” she says. “There is no point in being angry and stressed. You just have to do the best you can.”
Shortly after Jake’s diagnosis, the Poetker family made contact with the Alzheimer Society and learned a lot about dementia through education sessions and support groups. Interaction with Leona Doerksen, Regional Coordinator of the Alzheimer Society’s South Eastman office in Steinbach, was a godsend.
Leona encouraged Dorothy and Jake to stay active and busy – and that wasn’t a hard sell for this couple! They visit friends and go for long walks, and they travel. Last summer, they flew to Italy and stayed in a big house at a 300-year-old vineyard with their two daughters and their families. Everyone in the family chipped in, helping to make the four-week stay in Tuscany a great success.
The Italy trip required an adaptation to accommodate a change in Jake. Crowds at the airport made him more anxious than usual, so the couple asked for and received help: airport personnel happily brought them to the front of long lines so they could be easily ushered through checkpoints.
Dorothy has no problem making this kind of adjustment to the way they do things. Recently, when she saw that Jake was starting to slow down during their two-mile walks, she decided it would be best to shorten the outing to make it more manageable for him. And while complicated card games may be a thing of the past, Jake can still enjoy a rowdy game of dice.
Dorothy encourages Jake’s musical side. Once a talented guitar player, he doesn’t pick up his instrument anymore, but he remembers all the words to familiar songs. There is nothing to stop him from using his voice to join in the music!
For Dorothy and Jake, dementia means a new and different life, and they are okay with that. The odd time, a sadness overcomes Dorothy, but she pulls herself out of it. “I don’t dwell on it,” she says. “I let myself shed a few tears, and then I get up and get going.” At times like this, she’ll get Jake out for their regular walk, or they might go shopping and he’ll push the cart.
“Jake is not a burden,” she says. “He is still the love of my life, and I can see in his eyes how much he still loves me, too.”
Lorna Wenger, Alzheimer Society of Manitoba for the Manitoba Post