“I live with dementia…in Victoria. Let me help you understand.”

Canadians affected by dementia are going public for a third consecutive year in an effort to change hearts and minds. People living with the disease, their caregivers and family members are courageously stepping forward with their personal stories in the Alzheimer Society’s nation-wide campaign, I live with dementia. Let me help you understand as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Walter Strauss and his daughter Helga dance together. Helga has a pair of cat ears on.

“Dad was becoming forgetful,” says Helga Strauss, whose father Walter is living with dementia. When the family first started to notice changes, Walter was living in the Bahamas with his wife Karen, where they had retired after spending more than 10 years building Cross Stitch and Country Crafts Magazine, a magazine with more than a million subscribers. As his memory problems increased, Walter started to have trouble with numbers – despite being a certified accountant. In 2017, they moved back to Canada to be closer to Helga and the rest of the family. That’s when they started the process of trying to understand what was wrong. It wasn’t until 2018, after a year of referrals and tests, that they determined that Walter was living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We were glad to finally have a diagnosis,” Helga shares.

Since his diagnosis, Helga and Walter have found a new way to connect with each other – through music. “He was never interested in music before,” Helga says. “But now he says that he wants to sing it out!”

Music has helped Walter stay active. While he and Helga often take time to listen to golden oldies from his adolescence, he’s also become an avid line dancer and attends the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Minds in Motion®, a social and fitness program for people in the early stages of dementia. Walter has become increasingly curious and wants to learn new things, like the ukulele.

Helga says that one of the most important lessons she’s learned since dementia came into their lives is that she can’t correct Walter when he doesn’t remember something. “It has to be about finding time to be together.”

Want to learn more?

Read the stories of more B.C. individuals and families who are affected by dementia and help us change the conversation!

Last Updated: 01/01/2020