Iain is a man of many accomplishments; he is the father of five children, a respected teacher who taught wilderness and agricultural studies at the Boyne River Outdoor Educational Centre for many years, and an excellent piper who has represented Minto in numerous competitions.
Iain has been diagnosed with multiple dementia. The disease has impacted his life in many ways. He has memory loss which disrupts his daily life and causes him a great deal of frustration. Iain often repeats the same questions and stories over and over again, is unable to plan or problem solve, has difficulty with completing familiar tasks, has confusion about time and places, misplaces things, has lost his ability to retrace steps and has poor judgment which puts him at constant risk. Iain had withdrawn and was very sad and depressed so his doctor put him on antidepressants.
The disease has not only affected him but also has had a huge impact on his spouse, Ethel. She has now, when she should be enjoying a relaxed and carefree retirement lifestyle, taken on the role of caregiver. Providing care has taken a tremendous toll on the physical and emotional health of Ethel as well. She has started to put her own needs aside. She took care of Iain in hopes that if she concentrated on that, she wouldn’t have to think about the stress it was causing in her own life. Unfortunately caring for Iain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was becoming an overwhelming task and she started to feel burnt out. Exhaustion took over, she was unable to concentrate, emotionally sensitive, withdrawing socially and feeling anger and sadness. She knew she had to confront the difficulty of her challenge or both their lives would suffer.
That’s when Ethel started attending the Alzheimer Society Support groups. It was there that she was learned about the Seniors Day Out Program. At first she was reluctant to send Iain, having felt she was being selfish, passing off her responsibilities to other people. However with the encouragement from the Alzheimer Society education coordinator, Ethel decided to make arrangements with the Senior Day Out coordinator to have Iain assessed and admitted to the program.
Iain started out attending the program one day per week and, at first, Ethel did feel guilty for leaving Iain at the centre, as she was truly enjoying her break from caring for him and the time for herself. However, the regular relief rejuvenated her mind and body giving her that much needed break which in turn made her caregiver role much easier. Then, she was informed by the program coordinator that Iain was enjoying the therapeutic recreational activities provided, took part in all activities and socialized with his peers, that they had noticed an increase in his self-confidence and comfort level at the program and that they felt he would benefit from attending the program additional days. At that point, she stopped feeling guilty and realized that she was, in fact, being more responsible as caregiver by taking this time, not only for herself, but for Iain as well.
When Ethel learned about the new VON SMART Congregate Exercise Program (this program modifies exercises to the abilities of the participants and serves a healthy meal supplied by the VON Meals on Wheels after the program) in which both she and Iain could both participate she decided to try that out too. Ethel and Iain came out to the free launch of the program and after the trial Ethel was hooked. She now enjoys an outing with her husband, receives the benefits of exercising and after the program can enjoy a nutritious meal and intellectual conversations with other program participants.
Ethel and Iain have been enjoying the VON services for more than three months now. Iain attends the Seniors Day Out Program three times a week and both Iain and Ethel attend the SMART Congregate Exercise Program with a meal provided by Meals on Wheels once a week. These programs have had a positive impact in both of their lives. Iain’s mood has improved, there has been an increase in his dignity and self-esteem and an improvement has been noted on his ability to perform daily activities.
“He enjoys it and it gives him something to do. He’s out with people and he’s talking to people,” Ethel notes.
Ethel feels she has more energy and patience, and that she is taking better care of herself, giving her the ability not only to be a much healthier happier person herself but a better caregiver as well.
“It gives me some freedom and just takes that pressure off,” she said.
For more information on programs offered by the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) serving Peel and Waterloo Regions and Wellington and Dufferin Communities, contact the Mount Forest office at 519-323-2330, or