David Wilkes is a 73-year-old resident who moved to Baycrest in the fall of 2017. Prior to being diagnosed with dementia about six years ago, he was a successful financial executive who loved to dance and had a laugh that filled the room, recalls his wife Cathy. He was smart, loyal, humble and a true gentleman. After more than 50 years together, he continues to be the love of her life. When asked how he is today, the first thing Cathy says is, “He still loves me. I can tell by his smile.”
David’s condition has progressed quickly. He can’t walk or talk anymore, and he needs to be on a special diet, but he is all smiles when his grandchildren come to visit, one of them riding in on his little tricycle. He loves the music programs and the social activities. Baycrest’s health and wellness programs make him comfortable and help preserve his strength. Knowing David is receiving the proper care he needs is a huge relief for Cathy. “My mother also suffered with dementia years ago, and I see such a difference between the treatment she received and the help David is getting,” says Cathy.
David’s story may sound familiar if you have watched a loved one deal with cognitive challenges. It began slowly. About 15 years ago, he showed mild tremors and small signs of a shortened attention span. For several years doctors attributed those symptoms to mini strokes, but as time went on his behaviour began to change. He started losing empathy and was prone to blurting out unfiltered comments. That‘s when he saw a neurologist and received his diagnosis. Around that time, he retired from his business.
Their journey, as Cathy calls it with quiet acceptance, was difficult. She cared for him as the dementia progressed and his behaviour became more erratic. But the day came, as she knew it would, when they had to find accommodations to address his physical and mental needs.
Baycrest has been a refuge. “I didn’t have to be embarrassed anymore for any of David’s strange behaviour. They had a quiet room where he could calm down and no one thought anything of it. It was such a relief,” she said.
Cathy calls her experience at Baycrest life-changing for both her and David. “The atmosphere, the attitude, the attention of the medical team, the enrichment programs, the caring, the music, the art, the helpfulness of the staff, the generosity of the community, everything here is different than any other place I’ve been in. It’s a place of comfort and joy. I feel good about leaving David here. Baycrest is in the vanguard of research and they put it into practice.”
Baycrest’s caregiver programs also helped Cathy. She attended a six-week course, learned about David’s condition and coping strategies, and connected with other caregivers, some of whom have become good friends who support each other.
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Our Next Chapter highlights the connections between our residents, patients, families and staff. These stories underscore the ways in which we are working together to fulfil a promise to realize our vision, and the important impact of committed supporters.