It started with little things, like trouble finding the right word and forgetting people’s names. That’s when Elsie Warner began what some call “the long goodbye” to Don, her husband of 62 years. In October 2012, Don was diagnosed with a type of dementia called Lewy Body. Through it all, her daughter Denise Campion has been there for her dad and her mom.
“He’s still my husband,” Elsie said. “I think I’ve been grieving for many years. When he sees us, he knows we’re special but he’s not the same person.”
Both Warner and Campion hope to get the word out and feel this should be everyone’s fight since one out of three seniors die from some type of dementia. They invite everyone to join them on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the University of the Pacific at the annual Alzheimer’s Walk.
Elsie’s story is quite typical of spouses whose loved one has dementia. But some of her experiences are quite unique.
“God was preparing me 20 years ago,” Elsie said. “New neighbors moved in next door and both developed dementia. I didn’t know how to communicate with them until I read a book called “The 36-Hour Day.’”
Elsie said Don’s type of dementia can get better for a time or nose dive rapidly, but eventually it gets much worse. After being tested the second time, the couple moved from their home in Paradise to Galt in January 2015 to be closer to their daughter. Elsie was and still is fighting her own health crisis, battling cancer, so having her daughter close is a great help.
Elsie said God’s hand in the move was very apparent when they found a home just across the street from Denise and her husband Curt Campion. The family had an in-home care provider for Don for many months, but last year moved him into memory care.
Elsie visits her husband as often as possible and even maintains a room at his facility so she can stay close. She currently has to juggle her visits with her own appointments to oncologists, but phone calls keep her up to date on his well being.
All through this process, both mother and daughter continued to educate themselves on dementia. They found the Alzheimer’s Association a huge help with lots of literature and a free 24/7 helpline manned with experts to aid family members and caregivers. Last year, the mother/daughter duo participated in their first Alzheimer’s Walk in Stockton.
“When I read some literature from them that said one in three seniors die from dementia, it really hit me,” Elsie said. “There were 18 in my family so that would be six likely to suffer from dementia.”
Elsie is so grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association and their mission to find a cure that she is passionate about helping.
“Last year was the first time I had ever participated in an Alzheimer’s Walk,” Elsie said. “It was a very touching experience for me. Our family is excited and grateful that our daughter Denise and I decided to form our own family team this year – the Campion-Warner Team. We continue to be in awe at the dedication of our Stockton Walk Leadership Team. We are hopeful that, in my generation, we will have the joy of seeing our first Alzheimer’s survivor. Please be a part of this challenge, whether by walking, making a donation, joining our team or just giving us encouragement.”
If you need any information or help on dementia related illnesses or legal information regarding those with dementia, you may call the Alzheimer’s Association’s Helpline at 800-272-3900.