January is Alzheimer's awareness month.
Today, more than half a million Canadians are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. By the year 2050, more than 1.7 million people in Canada will be living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada.
Linda Wiebe's husband, Herb, is part of that statistic. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2019.
"I would say over eight years ago, we started to notice that there was something wrong," Linda explained. "In the beginning, I was trying to rule out a brain tumour or anything like that. We started going the route of neurologists, CT scans, and all kinds of things like that. It took until 2019 to finally get an official diagnosis of Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia."
This diagnosis brought Linda and Herb to tears. Linda says she remembers getting into the car after the diagnosis, holding hands with Herb, and weeping.
"Part of it was just relief, I guess, to finally have an answer because things were getting worse."
Linda says many symptoms led them to search for answers.
"He would make promises that he did not keep. He would say he was going do one thing, and he would do another," said Linda. "All of a sudden, he wouldn't recognize people."
As Herb's wife and best friend, Linda found this very difficult to watch.
"There's fear. You can't believe it's happening," Linda explained. "You're losing your best friend little by little."
Linda says there is a stigma with the disease. Many people don't like to discuss it. When Herb received his diagnosis, Linda says she asked if he wanted his story to be shared, and he said yes, to help other families.
By 2020, Herb had deteriorated to a point where he could not be left alone.
"The good thing is, in Manitoba, we have an option called Self and Family Managed care where you can take over the care of your spouse through home care, and I opted to do that. For me, it was so huge that Herb's quality of life still was good."
"I hired men, and I had one nursing student for a while. I wanted men with the interest that he had."
Linda says the caregiver's journey is psychologically painful, physically exhausting, and it's long and slow.
"It's probably the loneliest journey because you're doing everything for the loved one, and you're forgetting to take care of yourself."
Linda says God has proven himself to their family through their years of working as missionaries.
"We were in Bogota, Colombia, during the years of the bombings and the violence. Our faith was tested in many ways during that time, and we saw him protect us and look after us," said Linda. "Our faith has kept us going because we know that there's gotta be a purpose."
Herb is now in a personal care home, one he chose before the disease took over.
Linda hopes that by sharing their family's story, they will be able to help others get through this difficult time.
Today on Connections, Linda shares her family's experience with Alzheimer's and how their faith has impacted this journey.