Alfonso & Francesca
For many years in my relationship with Francesca, we had roles that were set in stone. I worked in construction doing masonry while she worked in the home. This dynamic changed dramatically in 2013 when Francesca was diagnosed with dementia. Since then, my role has changed and expanded as her dementia progressed.
I am very proud of our marriage and I take my role seriously as Francesca’s protector. For a while, I was reluctant to accept help from anyone but my daughter, but with her working full time to support her own family it meant I was doing a lot of it on my own. One year ago, it became apparent that I was putting our lives at risk by trying to manage the home on my own.
There was rotting food in our fridge, the house was dirty, and our appearances had become disheveled and unkempt. I never had to cook before so my attempts to cook complete meals had caused us to lose weight. The hardest part, however, was when our community of close friends slowly started to pull away, which meant we had lost our informal support network.
That was when we discovered Community Support Services. In near crisis, our daughter met with a Registered Social Worker from our local Alzheimer Society and she enrolled us in the First Link dementia education series. I finally started to understand the symptoms Francesca was experiencing which helped me communicate better with her. After the series ended, my daughter continued to attend regular support groups to help her support us and process her own feelings regarding her mother’s dementia journey. I made friends with some other caregivers in the education series and I started attending a spousal support group with them.
I learned about Adult Day Programs and the respite they provide by allowing me time to meet with my new friends. After enrolling Francesca in an adult day program, I found I could get errands done and have some time for myself. I wasn’t worried because I knew Francesca was safe and able to participate in failure-free activities that brightened her mood and gave her a sense of purpose again. Once a month, Francesca would spend at least one overnight at the day program, where she was monitored and pampered, so that I could have at least one solid night of sleep to recharge. This decision was not an easy one for me, but through the support of the day program staff and our Alzheimer Society social worker, I found it helped me as a care partner.
As for my cooking troubles, I signed up for Meals on Wheels for both Francesca and I on the days that she would not be at the day program. I became friends with the Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers and their check-ins at meal drop off became one of the highlights of my week. With regular meals and socialization, both Francesca and I began to thrive again.
The relief my daughter felt was immense. By using Community Support Services, I was still able to care for Francesca in a way that was dignified and respected our need for independence. Community Support Services has kept us at home. It provided my daughter with the knowledge and tools to support me, her mother and herself during the process. And she saw quite clearly that we had joined a new community of support.
Alfonso’s story, though fictional, is written based on the combined stories of several individual clients who have used and accessed Community Support Services (CSS). Many individuals in our communities have similar stories to Alfonso. They struggle to look after themselves while providing care for a loved one. These individuals find meaningful connections and physical health improvements by participating in the CSS programs.
Without these services and programs, individuals are susceptible to unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization. This keeps them away from their home and family and fills up beds in an overburdened system.