Meet Al and Joyce
As longtime members of both the Silver Springs Golf & Country Club and the Winter Club, Al and Joyce aren’t used to being cooped up at home.
“We’re still coping. We’re housebound, but we’re trying to get out for walks almost every day,” says Al. Walks are still possible but becoming increasingly laboured with Joyce’s arthritis.
Al works hard to iron out the kinks of connecting virtually with Club 36, sometimes recruiting friends to help in a pinch. “Working out the technical issues when you’re not very technical is a challenge. I’m 84 years of age,” he underscores.
Al is the primary caregiver for his wife Joyce who lives with dementia. For the past few years, Club 36 has been an important point of respite for them both.
Club 36 gave Joyce meaningful connections as well as cognitive and physical activities twice a week. For Al, it created opportunities to continue focusing on his own health and wellbeing as a caregiver, which benefitted them both.
But being physically and socially active is nothing new to Al and Joyce. They were founding members of a social club that evolved into (what’s now known as) the 55+ Club in Calgary. They have tennis, badminton, bowling and curling leagues. Joyce was president of the Board of Directors for about three years. Now Al sits on the board.
Al notes that the virtual Club 36 connection has become vitally important for them during the pandemic.
“We’re getting regular calls from them. And it’s nice, keeping in touch. They’re on top of us, checking in to see if we’re okay,” says Al.
“We’re doing ok. I look forward to Club. And it gives Joyce more to do than just be at home with me.”
Al shares that the new form of Club connection is a little more challenging given Joyce’s progressive dementia.
“We try to do some things (with Club 36 on the computer) but it’s a little bit difficult. The interest isn’t there sometimes.”
Regardless, Club staff understand the implications of Joyce’s dementia and continue to offer tips to keep her engaged in the virtual activities.
Club 36’s deliveries of essential goods have also been timely. While their daughter, Carolyn, gets their groceries each Sunday morning, they sometimes run out of basics during the week.
In-home care options have been extremely limited during the crisis. And the prospect of navigating a busy grocery store isn’t the best idea. Al has learned that Joyce can no longer be left alone, even for a few minutes.
“Three years ago, it was more about her memory loss, but she could still do a lot of things by herself. Now the dementia has progressed,” Al shares.
“The other day she left the hot water running. That sounds like a simple thing, but it might not be a simple thing.”
Al recounts a frightening incident that took place only weeks ago. “Joyce lost her balance on the stairs and fell backwards, even though I was just steps away from her. She was O.K., thankfully. She was badly bruised, but she could have hit her head. I don’t want to be away for any length of time now. Ten to 15 minutes makes a big difference in our world.”
For Al, that means no more working in the yard unless he has a support in place for Joyce. And no more bike rides around the neighbourhood, either.
Al’s devotion to his wife goes back more than six decades to when they first met. He recalls her gorgeous smile and blonde hair and summoning the courage to ask her for a date to their workplace Christmas party. While they were both casually seeing other people at the time, none of that really mattered in the end.
“That was it. Joyce and I drifted together.” Al’s smile is audible over the phone. Life blessed them with three children and three grandchildren. One daughter unfortunately passed away before her time, but Al maintains his positivity.
During this crisis, Al is most grateful for the diversion of Club 36 and the programs available to Joyce while they remain at home.
“If we didn’t have Club 36, it would be very stressful. No doubt about it,” says Al. He appreciates the mix of activities including games, brain teasers, physical activities, music and more.
“Club 36 gives you a little more aim in life. We really enjoy the Bingo games. We probably wouldn’t be as happy or as content as we are now, without Club 36.”
At times, they’re challenged to be involved for the full hour time period, but they participate for as long as they can.
“Going there in person is a lot better for her. But we have to do what we’re doing now.”
Al wishes he had even more respite options but he’s thankful for what’s happening today in their home. When asked how he’s doing, his chipper disposition shines through the phone.
“I’m good!” he affirms. “The sun is shining today.”