I'm at the Chartwell Empress retirement home in Kanata, visiting the Girard family. This is a pretty typical Wednesday afternoon for the Girards. Sue is laid back, enjoying the sun. Sandy is a bundle of energy, pulling out lists of golfers and spreadsheets and sharing them with her son Alex. Alex, who owns his own business, is on his phone answering work emails. And Mirrieme is giving Alex the gears. You kids, always on your phones, you never put that thing down...
There's a palpable comfort between them, and the sort of friendly poking one does only with those closest to them. Sue tells Mirrieme she should be eating more, Mirrieme suggests to Sue that since she became diabetic and can't eat cookies, what's the point?
Like most people with dementia, it's not immediately obvious in Mirrieme. As Alex approaches she asks if he's someone she knows - but that could be a problem with her eyesight. Even Sue, Alex's aunt, gets this one wrong. No, you don't know him. Oh wait, you do - that's Alex!
This family has been touched by dementia in many ways. Sandy, Sue, and their sister Donna lost their grandma to dementia. Just a few months ago, they lost their aunt Shirley Francoeur - who was profiled here with her daughter Heather Tessier a few months ago. And now it's their mom who is living with the condition here at the Empress. Mirrieme says she loves it here, but then looks up at the ambulance in the driveway with its lights flashing. She gives me a look that says 'well, I don't love everything about this place'.
I'm dropping off a painting and Mirrieme decides it looks like a winter scene of a golf course. This makes sense, we have been talking golf for the past hour. Sandy and Alex are organizing a golf tournament at the Beautiful Château Montebello. (I think that's the official name. You have to include 'Beautiful'.) It's in honour of Mirreime, but also in honour of their grandma. And their aunt Shirley.
It's raising funds for the next group of caregivers who will have to go through the same journey Sue, Sandy, and Donna are going through now. The journey Heather went through until recently. And they know that support, education, and social interaction go a long way.
The social interaction certainly seems to brighten Mirrieme's day, and she's thrilled to hear that her granddaughter is about to have a baby, making her a great-grandmother for the first time. She has heard this before, of course. But it makes her happy every time. She turns to me and asks if we've met, and who I am. I tell her I'm with The Dementia Society. Mirrieme's face breaks into a wide smile and she laughs.
"Oh it's good that you're here. I have that!"
If you look up the definition of ‘volunteer’, it simply states, “Freely offer to do something.” Although true, this doesn’t sufficiently capture those who volunteer. I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator with the Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew Cou
The statistics are alarming: one of the greatest risk factors for dying of COVID-19 is dementia. The reasons are many and potentially complex, but the need to prioritize the 24,000+ people diagnosed with dementia in Ottawa and Renfrew County and their