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Residents connect and learn in PWL Red Deer
Marriage and Memory Care group

August 28th, 2017

When Beth Damiani’s husband Reno was diagnosed with dementia, she was in uncharted waters. “I was taken aback," she says. "I had never even been around anyone with dementia.” Then Reno moved into memory care, and Beth joined him at Points West Living Red Deer. She chose to live in an independent living suite and spend much of her time with Reno. The couple's life transition has been aided by a new program with fellow residents on a similar journey. 

Struggles and joys of having a spouse in memory care

The Marriage and Memory Care program was started by Recreation Therapist Carlene Wagner. “When PWL Red Deer was opening and many spouses were moving in separately,"Carlene explains, "I really sensed a strong need to bring them together to help create community and share their struggles and joys of having a spouse in memory care. So, we recently created a small group where spouses can meet together to discuss various topics about having a spouse with dementia.” 

We as caretakers can adapt and change

“For many of them living separately (or together in a memory care suite) it was a new step and they have a lot of mixed feelings and questions about this decision, as well as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease itself,” Carlene says, adding, “We focus on how we, as caretakers, can adapt and change to continue healthy, meaningful relationships with a spouse in care, as well as building relationships with others that can support us in this journey.”

A sense of trust and support

“The group has already gained a sense of trust and support for each other, which flows into their interactions together outside the group as well as with their spouse,” Carlene adds. Some of the comments participants have shared with Carlene include:

  • “It is great to be able to speak to others, knowing they are all in the same boat”
  • “It’s nice to have a real connection with people you have something in common with. Sometimes it’s hard for others outside of this group to understand what our lives are like daily. This group understands.”

We can be real with each other

Beth Damiani agrees. “I am more aware of how my reactions affect my spouse,” she says. "This program has helped me to gain understanding of dementia and my spouse. It is a place where you don’t have to feel any pressure to have it all together. We can be real with each other about the struggles we have."

Photo: Beth and Reno Damiani at their 67th wedding anniversary celebration at Points West Living Red Deer.

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