'He is still there'

By Pam Cross

Pam Cross

My husband Brad was always a glass half full kind of guy. You'd ask him how he was doing and he'd say "110 per cent!" Everyone in our town knows him. He’s just one of those guys.

Even though Brad was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, he still loves to be around people. Despite his declining ability to speak, he can still communicate with me. I can tell that he’s still there from the way he holds me, and the way he touches me. Right down to the way he holds a napkin or the way he laughs, he’s still Brad.

It started in 2012, when we went to the doctor because I thought Brad might be experiencing an unusual bout of depression. Brad had turned 60 the year before, his sister and brother-in-law had recently died, and he was in the middle of closing up his heavy equipment company.

We were completely caught off guard. Brad had cerebral amyloid angiopathy - a neurological condition where proteins called amyloid build up on the walls of the arteries in the brain. This condition increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke and dementia. Brad suffered a catastrophic stroke later that year, which likely sped up the progression of dementia.

After his diagnosis, friends and neighbours told me that they would sometimes find Brad parked in their driveways, unable to explain why he was there. People didn't know how to tell me.

The illness progressed quickly and by 2013, Brad was in a long-term care home. When I look back through the journal I started when we first got the diagnosis, I can see how angry I was then. I have since learned to accept our situation, and even sometimes find happiness.

A negative mind will never create a positive life. This journey can destroy you. It can also bring some amazing people, love and compassion into your life. You just have to let it in. It’s my responsibility to enter my husband's world, because he can never come back to mine.

Believe it or not, he's still teaching me things: how important we were and are to each other, and how lucky I was and am to have him in my life. I know it sounds hokey, but I'm learning to accept this.

Life doesn't end when Alzheimer's begins. Learn how to be there for those who are #StillHere ►