Living with Alzheimer’s

Living with Alzheimer’s

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                Beth and Ron Houston enjoy a game of crib. Ron is the honouree for this year’s Investors Group Walk for Memories for the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia. The walk takes place Jan. 29 at Wesbild Centre. Team and individual registrations are being accepted now.

Cara Brady/Morning Star

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  By Cara Brady – Vernon Morning Star    Published: January 18, 2012 1:00 AM
Ron Houston has been open about his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease from the beginning.

He wants his family, friends and the community to understand that while there are changes, he is still the same person and cares about them as much as he ever has. He hopes that this attitude will help other families who have a member with the disease.

He noticed the changes himself about three years ago after eight years of retirement from a long career as manager of the Vernon Curling Club.

“I felt that something was not quite right but I wasn’t sure what,” he said. He still has mixed feelings about the diagnosis.

“I was mad. Why me? Maybe I’ve never accepted it but I do. Life goes on after diagnosis and we’ve had a lot of help from friends and from the local Alzheimer Society.”

They knew people who had Alzheimer’s disease and Ron’s wife, Beth, was fearful from the start of the diagnostic process.

“I was totally heartbroken. It took me a year to really be able to talk about it. We knew Phyllis Dyck (Alzheimer Society of British Columbia representative in Vernon) and made an appointment to talk to her,” she said.

They take part in Shaping the Journey:living with dementia, early stage and caregiver support groups and the Minds in Motion exercise and social group.

“These people in the groups, the leaders and other people, have done a lot for us. They help you work through things and feel comfortable and free to talk,” said Ron. “It’s amazing that the groups make you feel better and when you laugh and feel good, it rubs off on others.”

Beth appreciates all the resources that are available.

“You learn so much. Everyone has a different experience on how they handle situations. Things haven’t changed that much for us yet,” she said.

One of the changes that has been difficult is that Ron has given up his driver’s licence and he misses the independence of driving.

Ron learned to curl when he was 10 years old and has kept it up ever since.

“I couldn’t play hockey, so I learned to curl,” he said.

The couple, both from Manitoba, met at the Manitoba Bonspiel. They moved to Vernon in 1974 and Ron was manager of the Vernon Curling Club for 25 years. He was also a curler, coach and association secretary. One of his highlights was playing lead for Team B.C. at the 1991 Canadian Senior Men’s Championship. Ron and Beth have two sons and three grandchildren.

The family is very athletic and Ron and Beth curl and golf together, as well as enjoy the movies, jazz and travel. They’ve been to New Zealand, Costa Rica, and, last fall, Ireland.

They like to play crib and it’s there that they do notice some changes, with Ron taking more time to do the math.

“He’s still the same person, only one brain cell won’t connect to another at a particular moment. We can laugh when it happens,” said Beth.

“You could fall into gloom and doom, but where does that get you? You might as well enjoy the time that you have. I think education is very important and it is very important for all people to understand that the disease is not going to go away at the moment. People think of Alzheimer’s disease as the end stage, but there’s so much more. That’s an unfortunate stereotype. It could be a long journey of enjoyment until that and no one knows what the future holds.”

Ron is the honouree for this year’s Investors Group Walk for Memories, a fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia. There are more than 70,000 British Columbians with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and approximately 10,000 of them are under the age of 65. Funds raised by the walk go towards local information, education, services and support, as well as toward research for the causes and cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

If you know someone living with alzheimer’s disease and needs home care services: www.soinsgabrielle.com