Two are better than one when it comes to fighting dementia. But though Ruth Wyatt, 85, and her husband Claire, 88, have managed to stay together together for 68 years, dementia now threatens to pull them apart.
Claire and Ruth were separated when Ruth, who has severe dementia, was removed to long-term senior care for her own safety after a fall left her unable to walk.
Claire, who is in the beginning stages of dementia, said that the separation was a no-go. “I couldn’t eat my supper, I couldn’t sleep, I was going crazy, so I made up my mind: ‘I can’t live like this. I’m going back to get her,’” he told CTV Winnipeg.
Now the couple is back in their apartment together, but it’s not easy. Denise Petrycky, the couple’s daughter, knows that Ruth needs to be in a long-term care facility, but she wants her parents to be able to stay together. The family has struggled to find a facility appropriate for couples.
Denise says that she feels like she’s failing. “I can’t separate them. I won’t do it. It’s not fair. They would both just die if they were separated and it’s not right,” she said.
She hopes to find a place for her parents where Claire can go back to being a husband again, instead of a full-time caregiver. The couple currently has a home care worker visit them four times a day.
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The rising number of dementia patients means that many married couples are struggling to find appropriate long-term care. Ideally, Claire and Ruth, and couples like them, would have access to a care facility with housing onsite or nearby for spouses that can live independently. The facilities like this that do exist often have long waiting lists.
Until they find a better solution, Claire and Ruth will make it work in their own home.
“They’re a team, they’re like salt and pepper, they go together,” Petrycky told CTV Winnipeg. And that’s how they plan to stay.