Whether comforting a stranger visibly struggling with family caregiving in the hardware store or publicly sharing her intense experience caring for her husband Don, who lived with dementia, Lorraine Chambers finds herself offering support to other caregivers near the Clearwater and Barriere area whenever she can.
“If you start getting frustrated, it’s okay,” says Lorraine, herself a support worker. “Something pretty horrendous is happening and to keep it all inside is impossible. I was so mad at myself when I couldn’t keep it together. I thought I could, but I couldn’t.”
Don was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia in 2012, a diagnosis that came late and was followed by a series of rapid changes in their lives over the next year. Don, a former drug and alcohol counselor who enjoyed exploring the outdoors and spending quiet time with his wife, began experiencing hallucinations and delusions that left him paranoid and suicidal.
Before Lorraine could process the changes, her kind, gentle husband grew so fearful of her that he tried to jump out of their car while she drove him to the hospital.
“He said, ‘Lorraine, I love you, but I don’t trust you.” By the time the two arrived at the hospital, Don became lucid, cried and apologized profusely.
“I said, ‘It’s not your fault. You have nothing to be sorry for,” said Lorraine.
Those times Don was lucid were incredibly painful for him, Lorraine says. By the time their year on the dementia journey together was through, Don had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer – and briefly committed to a psychiatric ward against Lorraine’s wishes. When Don eventually moved into hospice care, the staff told Lorraine that all she had to do was be his wife.
“What a relief that was. All I had to do was be his wife.”
Calls to Tara Hildebrand, Alzheimer Society of B.C. Support and Education Coordinator, First Link® were Lorraine’s only support throughout the journey.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it, except for with Tara – she just let me cry.”
Six years after losing Don, Lorraine finds some comfort in knowing that she can relate to other caregivers, though she feels that no one ever needs to “get over” such difficult experiences as a caregiver.
“It really pulls at my heartstrings every time I hear about somebody with a loved one who has dementia.”
Walk with Lorraine at the Barriere IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s on Sunday, May 5. Together, you make memories matter.
You can register or find your community contact at: www.walkforalzheimers.ca.
For more information about the Barriere Walk contact Margaret Houben at 250-672-9330 or Liz Gilbertson at 250- 672-9337.
For information about Alzheimer’s conact the Alzheimer Society of BC at: Toll-free: 1-800-667-3742.