Meet Ray and Carol
Club member Ray and his wife Carol had just returned from a month in B.C. when the COVID-19 crisis hit. They arrived back in Calgary on March 13th having noticed incremental changes during their time in B.C.
“As soon as we came back, we realized we were all locked up in our apartment building. No one’s allowed to come in. Our kids, we haven’t seen them since the middle of February.”
Ray lives with vascular dementia. Aside from being Ray’s wife, Carol is Ray’s primary caregiver. They’ve been together for 24 years and it’s a second marriage for both of them.
Carol thinks back to how much she enjoyed having the support of Club 36 before the COVID-19 crisis began. “It was a good day for Ray because he always came home in a good mood.”
And when it came to relieving some of her caregiving responsibilities, Carol recalls, “It was like I had a day when I didn’t have to think about anybody else. It was a breather. Some days I would do nothing, other days I’d meet friends and go for coffee.”
The lockdown has meant major changes in their lives. Going to a physical location for Club 36, such as Seton or Harvest Hills, is no longer an option for Ray.
“It’s an isolating time for us,” Carol reveals. “Sometimes I want to escape. But Ray stays pretty calm. He’s happy to sit in a chair and have a snooze. I’m 12 years younger than he is, though.”
Their children and grandchildren reach out on FaceTime, a video calling app for mobile devices, but the response from Ray is often mixed. “Ray doesn’t respond to the Facetime as much. He’s never been technical about going on the computer.”
Now that Ray and Carol are hunkering down at home, Club 36 is providing essential connectivity and options for activities from the outside. Beyond helping to pass the time, Club 36 is lifting their spirits and lessening any feelings of being cut off from the community.
At first, the concept of virtual activities with Club 36 confused Ray.
“We’re going to do a music session, a sing along? How are we going to do that? Where are we going?” he would ask.
Now that Ray has adapted to connecting through the computer for Club, he gets a lot out of the sessions. One of his favourite activities involves live music.
“Ray just loves Hannah’s singing. And Bailey has done trivia with him,” says Carol. “We’ve done exercise sessions, too. And Club 36 is calling soon this morning for a storytelling session.”
Carol is grateful for the space that Club 36 programming creates for them at home, enabling her to step away from Ray and from the computer. She’s enjoying a bit of time for herself and Ray becomes swept up in the virtual visit.
“They’ve brought us baked goods, also.”
Carol wishes more seniors had access to programs like Club 36 during such a tumultuous time.
“Club 36 has been amazing. I sent a message to Global News about it, but they never responded to me, yet. I’ll probably try again. They (news media) should let people know about programs like Club 36 and the ways they’re helping seniors.”
Carol admits they’re facing new challenges during the crisis and wishes she had more help and support. “I know Ray is getting worse, but I don’t know if it’s based on coronavirus or the isolation part. His short-term memory is completely gone. Sometimes I want to just scream because of the repetition. But he’s such a calm person and a wonderful husband. None of this is his fault. I know I just have to accept that.”
She talks about Ray and the unconditional love she has for him. As his wife and caregiver, Carol is doing everything she can to make choices that serve Ray’s best interests and hers.
“We’re very close. Watching him change is very hard because a story we share about the kids, he won’t remember it.”
When she talks about Club 36, Carol genuinely misses it.
“That’s been the hardest part – for Ray not being able to physically go to Club. He gets tired of talking to me sometimes because it’s just the two of us. I feel like I’m responsible for everything in the world.”
The virtual connection with Club 36 has been a reprieve for them both. “It means that Ray has someone else besides me.”
Looking to the future, Carol is uncertain. “I don’t even want to think about a care facility. I’m hoping we can manage for as long as we can this way. I know Ray feels that I love him. He’s my best friend.”