Daniele is a husband and a father. He and his wife, Erin met in Florence, Italy in 2002 while Erin was studying there. She returned to Canada in 2005, and Daniele joined her in 2006. They got married and started their family here; originally thinking they would make their way back to Italy, but ultimately stayed here so their children could have more opportunities.
Several years ago, Erin noticed that Daniele was not acting like himself. He would forget where he put day to day items, forget basic tasks, he also disengaged emotionally, and expressed very little interest in his wife and children. At this point, Erin was concerned so she contacted his doctor, who ended up blaming it on stress. This progressed for a few more years, to the point that they went back to the doctor insisting that there was something more that was wrong. The doctors and specialist ended up ordering several brain scans, tests and examinations, with the results ultimately ended up pointing to Dementia, and then Alzheimer’s.
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One main effect that dementia has on Daniele and his family is the disconnect between him and his family. Unfortunately dementia has led Daniele to lose his memories of his two younger children. He likes that they live in the house with the family, knows that they are Erin’s children but does not understand that he is their father as well. He has begun to depend heavily on his oldest son Niccolo, whom he does remember as his. While he is sceptical of the rest of the family at times, Niccolo is able to calm his anxieties and lift his spirits when needed.
Although the relationship between Daniele and his family has changed dramatically, they still find moments to appreciate each other and the time they have together; even if it’s just dancing around in the living room. Even though the familial roles are different now, Daniele is still a husband and father and the love in the family is still strong.
Daniele has been an active participant in two of Carefor’s adult day programs: the Carling and Vince Malette Functional Fitness programs. These programs not only help him stay connected to a community where he can laugh and stay active but also gives his wife, Erin, the opportunity to work.
Caring for someone who is living with dementia takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. As is often the case, the person living with dementia is elderly and has a spouse who is retired to care for him or her. Daniele’s wife is in the middle of her career and as she says, “I don’t use the time that Daniele is at the day program to rest or visit with friends. I use it to work.”
While it is also common for children to be involved in the care of an adult living with dementia, it is not common for that child to still be one. Niccolo finds himself getting his father ready for his day, even shaving him, things that might normally be reversed. Both Niccolo and his mother have found supports to help them through their journey. Niccolo participates with an online support group based out of Chicago for teens caring for their parents. Though shy, it allows Niccolo the chance to express himself and to hear from others who are dealing with similar challenges.
One thing that caregivers often find is that looking after someone can remove their links to their world. Staying connected with friends and community can prove more difficult. Daniele’s family rarely has guests and his children will visit friends in their homes, which happens less frequently as the disease and Daniele’s needs progress. These online resources and Carefor’s day programs have proven invaluable to help the family maintain as much a sense of normalcy as possible under the circumstances.
For more information about Carefor’s day programs visit: https://carefor.ca/services/respite-services