Aimee is caring for her Dad

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Aimee knows one thing to be true.

“My dad is still him; fun, positive, kind, athletic and wise. Like each person with dementia, his needs are unique and they need to be honoured and respected.”

Aimee grew up in an active household, hiking, biking and skiing with her family. Her father Pat was passionate about being active, particularly in downhill and cross-country skiing, running, camping and sailing his Laser. He was a senior partner with a chartered accountant firm and an active member in the sports community, including holding the title of President of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association and the Laurentian Ski Zone.

Today, Aimee knows how important it is to honour who her dad is, despite his dementia symptoms. She began caregiving remotely at first from across the country and then in her home in Calgary for two years before transitioning him into a memory care facility.

“He wants to be outside, moving, and helping.” If Aimee goes on autopilot and offers his walker to get across the room, for instance, Pat might be put off. “He doesn’t get grumpy often, but he’ll say, ‘I could’ve walked without that.’ In those moments, I forget to honour who he is, and that he could have done it.”

Carving her own path, Aimee is hardly a shrinking violet.

She is known for her determination, high energy, and big heart. She knows a lot about being active and teaching others. “I have a background in education, fitness, nutrition, recreation and working with seniors.” Yet, she is the first to admit that caregiving can get the best of her some days.

“I have committed to caregiving for my father. Not everyone can, or might be willing, to do that. I think I’ve learned a ton about people with dementia, and about myself. Working with professionals including doctors, social workers and dementia care specialists has made an enormous difference. I feel very supported by family, friends and neighbours which have carried me through some tough moments. We can't do it alone.

I’ve got to have big shoulders to withstand the pressure from society and caring for my father in our home instead of placing him in a facility before it was the right time for him to be there.”

“Every person I’ve spoken to has some kind of weight they’re trying to carry and keep their chin up.”

But beyond keeping her chin up, Aimee is succeeding in making her time with her dad some of their best yet. She’s taken online courses to help expand her knowledge and understanding of dementia. The University of Tasmania’s Wicking Institute has two free courses on dementia she swears by, in addition to other free workshops and sessions offered locally and nationally.  

“I'm passionate about empowering people. I believe we need to empower caregivers, the people around the people living with dementia, because they're the ones who have the biggest impact on the quality of life for those living with dementia, whether it's positive or negative.”

And being a former teacher, Aimee knows the true power of education. “I believe we need to heighten awareness about dementia and help others understand, even if they can’t see this disease, that it’s there. But that doesn’t mean the person isn’t still there, too.”

If Pat becomes confused, anxious or frustrated, she doesn’t fault him for it.

The courses and workshops she has taken have taught her how to calmly reassure him and provide the cueing he needs to feel safe and supported.

We give Aimee huge props for her efforts to make the best of her time with her dad. There are so many things she does, big and small, to keep him active and honour who he still is. She shares just a few of things that make the everyday fun for them:

• They build humour into everything, joke around

• Engaging him in anything he can do, like pouring cereal into the bowl

• Being a sous chef - stirring, chopping, putting something into the pot

• Folding laundry (he loves doing anything square)

• He’s vacuumed, he’s very meticulous!

• Playing games like UNO, Bingo, Qwirkle, or crazy eights

• They walk twice a day and dance often

• She reads to him

• He likes painting and drawing, and Aimee gives him choices… what colour would you like, red, green or blue?

They’ve been featured in the media for finding unique solutions, enabling Pat to continue doing things he loves, like biking and cross country skiing (with a kicksled).

“Being inclusive as possible is what living with dementia should look like in my opinion. With a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, we get to be kids again. We all have been given one life and one chance to live it. We don’t have control over a lot of it, but we can live as well as we can with what we have and make a positive difference in other people’s lives.”.

“We need to honour and respect each other as individuals and give each other the dignity that we all deserve; especially to those who can’t advocate for themselves, like those with advanced dementia.”

Click here for the latest story about Pat’s transition into long-term care.

Aimee is a proud supporter of the StillMe social movement.

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