Dementia Diagnosis Creates Unplanned Path for One Couple
For one couple, a trip to the park to sit and enjoy the outdoor weather and watch children play brings comfort and familiarity in an otherwise more difficult life. Dick’s wife, Nancy, has had dementia since she was 58 years old, and he has taken care of her since her diagnosis in 1998. She cannot talk, and each evening he cares for her. He helps her with her personal needs that include feeding and brushing her teeth. Before bedtime, they pray together.
Dick provided care to Nancy in their home for 10 years, but as her needs grew, he and the couple’s grown children worked together to find a new residence that provides memory care help. Even though Dick visits daily, round-the-clock care is available for the times he isn’t there.
“It’s been a journey, a tough journey,” said Dick Magler, who said caring for Nancy at home was a full-time job as she would wander off if left unattended. “While I wouldn’t wish this for anyone, I want to be helpful to others in a similar situation as I’ve learned so much through our experiences. And despite the challenges there have been many blessings along the way.”
For many years, Dick has been an active member of FamilyMeans’ support group for people caring for someone with memory loss. He said the support group was a lifesaver. It continues to be a place where he can share frustrations and exchange stories among others who understand.
Dick recalls times when he’d take his wife to the grocery store and shoppers would get annoyed by the slowness and confusion displayed by Nancy. He often wanted to announce, “Please be patient, my wife has dementia” but didn’t want to embarrass her with the comment. Yet, the couple’s friends and neighbors all understood and provided help in many ways over the years.
Today, Dick is participating as a community member in a group of local organizations brought together by FamilyMeans to help create a dementia-friendly community. Although still in its early stages, the group has lots of ideas and hopes to be able to educate the broader community about people living with dementia and how to make them and their families feel welcome.
To learn more or attend the support group for people caring for a loved one with memory loss, contact Lisa Schiemann at (651) 789-4004. The group meets the first Wednesday of each month from 1-3 p.m. at FamilyMeans in Stillwater. There is no cost, but pre-registration is requested.