‘We are more than this disease’

By Cathy Hurd

Cathy Hurd

My husband Boz Carter is a loving grandfather, a greeter at our church and a huge Boston Bruins fan. He’s also someone living with Alzheimer's disease.

"Dementia doesn't define us." That's been our mantra from the beginning.

After Boz’s diagnosis in 2012, we enrolled right away into an eight-week course with our local Alzheimer Society to learn how to plan for our future with the disease. This was one of the best gifts we could have given each other, because it helped us understand that we don't have to look backward to hang on to what we have. We can move forward with this disease and still live life.

While it took some educating on my part, our church was happy to have Boz volunteer as a greeter. Recently, Boz’s fellow greeter was amazed at the transformation in him. As each person approached, his face lit up and he got very animated. Seeing this, his fellow greeter sent more people his way. She got it – she understood it made him feel good to serve someone else. He found that at the church, he had value.

That was especially important to him, since he was fired from his job as a stock clerk after he became ill. That experience left him feeling broken and useless.

While we refuse to let the disease define us, we also know that we have to make changes in our lives. Boz has good and bad days, and we adjust our plans accordingly. We used to regularly have up to nine of our 14 grandchildren visit at the same time – always a crazy event. We now limit visits to one or two grandchildren at a time.

I’m on leave from my job as a family crisis worker and I want to keep my husband at home with me as long as possible. That way, I can greet him each morning in our usual way - staring into his face and telling him "good morning. I love you." I know it's not this way for everyone, but he reflects back whatever he gets from the world.

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