Victoria couple coping with dementia gives back with fundraising calendar
VICTORIA -- Pat is looking through a new calendar to find the most meaningful day of year for her and her husband.
“It’s Friday the 13th,” Pat smiles.
No matter when, or how many of them appear in any given year, it’s a chance for Pat and Al to celebrate their love.
“We were married on Friday the 13th!” Pat laughs. “It just worked out that way.”
Although they’ve been lucky in love for 47 years, when we first met Al earlier this year, he said he hadn’t been so fortunate in health.
“I felt wonky,” Al explains. “Not exactly a clinical term, but I felt wonky.”
Al started becoming so wonky — so confused — that Pat had to write where she was on a whiteboard. He was eventually diagnosed with Lewey Body Dementia.
“He really went downhill very quickly,” Pat says. “And I went down with him.”
Pat was suddenly his primary caregiver. The situation was looking bleak, until one day she discovered the whiteboard looking anything but.
“He had taken it and coloured the whole thing in permanent pen!” Pat laughs.
Al had filled it with bright colours and wrote, “Pat is Amazing.” The man who’d never done anything creative in his life suddenly felt compelled to make art.
“I realized very early on that this is a medium for me to be able to express myself,” Al says.
After Pat bought him packages of multi-coloured markers, Al started expressing himself multiple times a day, and hasn’t stopped for months.
“It was life-altering,” Pat smiles. “It was so wonderful for him.”
It’s transformed their living room into Al’s Art Gallery, featuring a rotating collection of more than 325 posters and counting. They cover every wall — from floor to ceiling — and feature brightly coloured, positive messages, ranging from “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” to “Choose Kindness.” You can see many of them on the Al’s Gallery Facebook Page.
The art has inspired Pat to give back to one of the organizations that’s helped her and Al since his diagnosis. She proposed a calendar of Al’s Art as a fundraiser for the Victoria Eldercare Foundation and Piercy Respite Hotel.
“Caregivers can crash pretty easily if they don’t take care of themselves. Respite is one way of doing that,” Pat explains. “You can take periodic breaks, let everything else go, and know that your loved one is being taken care of in a special place.”
Like that place has supported Pat and Al staying lucky in love for the foreseeable Friday the 13th, they hope the calendar's bright messages encourage you to be perpetually positive for all of 2021.
“I hope it gets them thinking good thoughts,” Al smiles, looking up from creating his 326th poster. “Good thoughts for themselves and others!”