Don Cooper, 85, picks out his wife’s clothes every day.
“I know nothing about women’s fashion,” he says with a smile. “But I try to think about she likes, and choose colours that go together.”
Since Phyllis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Don, a father, former principal and an avid sailor, has stepped outside of his comfort zone to make sure his wife of 70 years is living comfortably in their Toronto condo. In addition to caring for Phyllis, he does the shopping, cleaning and cooking.
“I don’t sleep because I lay awake and worry if I am doing enough for her,” he sighs. But none of the daily tasks compare to the despair Don feels about losing his wife’s sense of self.
“There is nothing worse than watching the person you have known for your entire life slip away,” says Don. A mother of three and a former teacher, Phyllis was a musician and a gifted soprano. She played piano and sang professionally all over the world. There is evidence of her musical career in the home: A beautiful piano with sheet music sits by the window, and photos of Phyllis singing decorate the room.
Second Mile Club at Kensington Health
Phyllis and Don are both members of the Second Mile Club. She attends the Day Program specifically designed for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Don receives free one-on-one caregiver support with Teri Henderson, who leads the caregiver support program at Second Mile Club.
“Caregivers often run the risk of jeopardizing their own mental and physical health in the process of caring for their loved ones,” said Teri.
"Our goal is to work with caregivers to support them throughout their caregiving experience." Don knows when Phyllis is at Second Mile, she's happy and safe, and he can afford to relax, and take time for himself.