Alzheimer's Journey

“Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive disease of the mind,” says Misty Zisin, Geriatric Nurse Practitioner at the Grey Nuns Hospital. “It causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour.”

She says that initial changes are often subtle and affect one’s ability to retain new information. Unfortunately, people may not recognize the changes in themselves.

“It is often a loved one who notices memory changes, and they often try to seek out assessments for diagnosis,” says Misty.

Ruth Murphy, one of Misty’s friends, noticed that her husband John started showing symptoms of dementia in August 2008. At that time, they did not consider dementia as the problem. It wasn’t until 2012 that the family received a diagnosis for John.

Ruth was able to care for John at home until she needed two hip replacements in 2015. During her recovery, John stayed in respite care, where his disease progressed very quickly. 

After her surgery, Ruth was physically unable to care for her husband at home.

John, now 67, lives in a long-term care facility in Calgary. His family visits as much as possible. Writing poetry is part of Ruth’s coping mechanism; this piece gives insight into the life of someone with dementia.

Alzheimer's Journey

By Ruth Murphy

There are no more happy birthdays or happy anniversaries
They are in the past now, just fading memories. 
This journey changes everything, nothing is the same
The person you shared your life with no longer knows your name.

Some friends who have known you no longer do you see
What is the point, they say, he doesn't remember me. 
Don't ask him to remember, just reminisce stories of the past 
He will enjoy your company while that moment lasts. 

He sits alone in his room with no one else around

I wonder what is on his mind, what memory has he found?
He stands at the mirror conversing with a friend. 
He doesn't know the reflection speaking back is him.

John and his granddaughter Harper

He whiles away the hours standing or sitting there
Does he ever wonder why he is left alone right here?
There are strangers who approach him wanting him to go
He is reluctant, they're people he doesn't know. 

They want him to shave & shower. He doesn't understand.
Give him patience & comfort, try to hold his hand.
Speak slowly & speak clearly, do not try to hurry
Rushing this process will only cause him worry.

Assure him he can do it himself, if he needs your help you're here.
Let him have his dignity. It will alleviate his fear.
Warm the water, close the curtain. Give him privacy
Pass him soap & shampoo. He'll do a good job, you'll see.

He spent his life with people, likes to interact pleasantly.
When he's left alone in his room, there's no one there to see.
His eyes light up with joy when little children come around
He doesn't have to know them. It's happiness he's found.

Come out to visit him, while away an hour.
To provide company & happiness: it is your power.
He is robbed of the future, can't remember the past
Give him pleasure in the moment, is that too much to ask?

Don't stay away & avoid this person you once knew.
Reach out, still be a friend, you know, this could be you.

John at William Watson Lodge in Kananaskis

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