George Allen and his wife Joan met at a very young age and immediately hit it off.
That connection has now lasted over 70 years — nearly 60 of which they have spent married. However, the last several years have presented their own share of challenges.
“Joan was getting tired of cooking and other things and I thought, ‘well after all these years together I can understand that’,” Allen explained.
“I didn’t really pick up on it. It was only when she started misplacing her medications and stuff.”
In 2013 Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s illness that affects thousands of New Brunswickers and their families.
Although Allen had known since he was eight-years-old and the pair would spent decades taking care of each other, Allen soon became his wife’s full-time caregiver.
He was solely responsible for all the housework, chores and to-do lists they’d always previously shared.
“I was going to do it all myself the first year, and then said, ‘I cant do it all myself’.”
“I was involved in a lot of groups like the Historical Society in Saint John and I couldn’t get to any of these,” he explained. “You were just in the house, you couldn’t get out to go to Costco or get gas or stuff like that.”
The Alzheimer’s Society became an important resource for Allen and his wife, as it has for countless other sufferers and caregivers.
“We provide education series,” explained Mark Harris, the organization’s first link coordinator. “We offer education for caregivers and others that provide support to loved ones that are affected by dementia.”
“One of the best things about our support group is … we have people interacting with each other that have some similar experiences.”
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The Alzheimer’s Society has stacks of literature available for those embarking on the journey of dealing with Alzheimer’s.
Allen says he did his fair share of studying similair materials but the most invaluable information came from talking with others who had experienced the challenges first hand.
“You need that support, if you don’t have that support, whether it’s your doctor, the Alzheimer’s Society, friends and family,” he said. “You’ve really got a problem.”
His appreciation for the help they received from the society hasn’t waned since Joan began living full-time in a care home.
“I’m still going even though I’m not a caregiver because I hope that maybe I can offer some help to the people who are new to it,” Allen said.
Anyone looking to learn more is encouraged to call their local Alzheimer’s Society or find more information on their website.