Keeping couples together

When a husband and wife both have dementia, they can feel lost if they’re not able to continue living together. And yet, that’s often what happens to couples who need dementia care. They become separated, and they lose one another’s support.

That’s what happened to Nancy, Heather, and Elizabeth’s parents. The three sisters could see a big change in their mom after their dad was transferred to long-term care from the retirement home apartment they were living in together.

“Our dad broke his hips within four months of each other,” says Elizabeth. “We were fortunate that he got into long-term care right next door to our mother.”

The trouble was their mom couldn’t visit independently because of her dementia.

“He could have been 100 miles away,” Elizabeth says. “It did not help her situation in the least.”

To further complicate matters, this all happened during the height of COVID.

“She didn’t know there was COVID and was unable to answer all the screening questions. When we took her to visit our father, she didn’t understand why she was getting a test or that she had to sit for fifteen minutes.”

The sisters put their mother on the waitlist for the long-term care home so their parents could be reunited. But because their mother’s care needs weren’t as great as many other people on the list, it would likely be a very long wait.

“They could not understand why they had to be separated,” Nancy says.

“It was horrible,” Elizabeth adds.

“She was desperately lonely without him,” Heather says. “She was in a retirement home on her own, but she really needed long-term care herself.”

That’s when the sisters looked at moving their parents to Highview Kitchener. Instead of possibly waiting years to get their mom into the long-term care home, they could get both their parents into Highview within a month and a half.

“I would say that our mother is much more relaxed at Highview, knowing that he is there,” Elizabeth says. “And to me, it has made all the difference for her.”

It also helps that Highview specializes in dementia care.

“The staff is very adaptable to all levels and idiosyncrasies of dementia,” says Elizabeth.

What’s curious about their parents’ situation is that they spent very little time together for much of their marriage.

“Our dad worked until he was 87, six days a week,” Heather explains.

“In fact, our parents did not get along very well,” Nancy adds. “Now, they sit and hold hands and kiss, and everybody thinks they are such a sweet couple.”

Although they lived quite separate lives for much of their marriage, as their respective worlds became smaller due to dementia, they came to rely on each other and benefit greatly from each other’s company.

Liz Shantz has a similar story to tell. Her cousin, Audrey, and Audrey’s husband, Ross, both had dementia. Liz acted as the substitute decision maker for both of them through a power of attorney for personal care.

Audrey and Ross ended up living together at Highview Kitchener, but not until after they became separated as a result of their dementia.

“Audrey has the dementia with forgetfulness,” Liz explains. “Ross had the dementia with I don’t trust a soul. He was very paranoid, which caused a lot of troubles.”

When Ross was in hospital with heart issues, Liz and others had to stay with Audrey.

“She would come into the room in the middle of the night and ask where Ross was, forgetting that he was in the hospital.”

Things didn’t get any better once Ross returned home. “They were forgetting to take their medication. They were forgetting to eat.”

On top of that, he was locking her out of the house. He was also threatening caregivers that were coming into the home. Eventually, the police were called in. Ross acted out, and the police took him to hospital.

Recognizing that it wasn’t safe for Ross and Audrey to continue living at home, Liz and other family members arranged to move them to Highview Kitchener.

When Ross was first scheduled to be transferred from the hospital to Highview, he acted out again, something that’s not entirely unexpected for his type of dementia. This, along with COVID restrictions at the time, meant that Audrey was without Ross at Highview for two weeks. But in the end, the couple was reunited – in a safe environment where each of their unique needs could be met.

“Although they weren’t a lovey-dovey couple, they needed each other,” Liz says. “Ross needed Audrey for her eyes (he had poor vision), and she needed him for the support. It was such a relief to know that they were cared for and that they were together.”

For many couples, staying together makes them feel complete, even if they’re not able to say so. That can be true whether it’s because they’re fiercely committed to their wedding vows or they’re simply reassured knowing that their lifelong partner remains at their side.

In many cases, couples in need of dementia care can be reunited at Highview much quicker than at a long-term care home. In fact, both spouses may not even have dementia. If one of them has physical disabilities, they’ll receive additional care and support. Highview is a secure home, located in London and Kitchener.

For more information about Highview Residences, contact:

Highview Residences London
Hayley Gignac, General Manager
p: (519) 472-8882 ext 201

Highview Residences KW
Katlynne Elgie, General Manager
p: (519) 893-2374 ext 301