Helen Heyd is the wife of a Providence Manor resident who is sharing her story this year through the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF) holiday campaign: Hope for the Hurting. The holiday campaign runs from November to December and will raise funds for key redevelopment priorities which include building a new home for Providence Manor.
Like so many people who watch, feeling helpless, as their loved ones begin to suffer from dementia I knew there was something wrong with my husband but I didn’t know what, exactly.
Jim and I owned a bakery in Windsor and he went on deliveries one day and when I asked him why he was out a little longer than normal he said, “Yeah, I made a wrong turn.” It wasn’t like him to get lost. He was only 60 at that time.
We met on a blind date years ago. A mutual friend asked me if I wanted to go for a coffee with a guy he knew from the ambulance service that had broken up with his girlfriend. I said yes. We clicked, right away.
In 2004 when Jim’s symptoms were worsening and he could no longer work, we moved to Kingston to be closer to our daughter here. I was 61 when I went looking for a job. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In time we found doctors, connected with the Alzheimer Society and they referred us to the Hildegarde Centre at Providence Manor. I didn’t think my husband was going to go along with a day program. But we lived in the country, and I couldn’t leave him alone when I went to work.
Jim went to Hildegarde four times a week for almost five years and was happy there. We got to know a lot of people at Providence Manor and that program was a Godsend for both of us. Eventually, when he needed around the clock nursing care, the day program wasn’t enough.
Jim and I celebrated 54 years of marriage this past September. For six of them, Providence Manor has been his home. In spite of his care needs, I still second-guess myself and feel guilty for not having tried harder or pushed more to keep him at home. Having a spouse in long-term care comes with some difficult emotions. The support of the staff in the home means so much to me—they are like family.
When I look around at the building I know it is old but it is Jim’s home. If he does get to move to the new home at the Heathfield site I am hopeful about the quality and increased comfort it will bring to his daily life and the time we spend together.
Like many people I imagine better access for larger wheelchairs, gardens and outdoor spaces that are easily accessible for all residents, a large auditorium for games and group entertainment but also smaller more private rooms in each care area for families to visit their loved ones, especially those who require total care.
A place to get some fresh air in the winter would be yet another Godsend as would a building site that is safer and easier for me to access, especially during the winter months.
Jim and I are still very young. We’re only in our 70s. I imagined us doing all kinds of fine things together during these years. I’d be lying if I didn’t say some days are the pits. What does bring me joy, though, and what I look forward to the most are those moments when I can still make Jim laugh.
When I can tell him a story and bring a smile to my husband’s face, that’s a good day.
Transforming healthcare through philanthropy begins with exceptional care and the inspiring stories that result from it. This is one of those stories. For more information or to donate visit uhkf.ca