Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Demands of dementia shut longtime shop

Bridal store to close as wife focuses on husband

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Carol Labelle says her husband's dementia has changed his personality, taken parts of his memory, and now it is forcing her to close her longtime bridal salon.

Labelle said she will close Labelle's Bridal Salon, at Graham Avenue and Vaughan Street, by next spring after 25 years of business so she can spend more time at home looking after Dave, her husband of 46 years.

She said she knows Dave needs her at home because while dementia usually robs a person of their memory, the type her husband has -- front-temporal dementia -- does more in the initial stages to change their personality and behaviour.

"He is happy, happy, happy," Labelle said.

"He doesn't necessarily know right from wrong. It's very stressful for me."

Labelle said her husband was diagnosed eight years ago when his personality started changing.

She said it has now progressed to the point that when they are out in public her husband will say to a male stranger "see you later alligator" and then insist, makes sure, and instruct the perplexed man to respond "in awhile crocodile" before he will let them leave.

"It's embarrassing and uncomfortable," she said. "It's tough. But he's in happy land... he's totally not the man I married.

"Maybe one or five per cent of the Dave I married is there."

But the illness hasn't taken away her love for her husband and she knows the only way to spend more time with him to help him on his journey is to shut down the store.

"We grew up together," she said.

"When we met I was 20 and he was 21. We did everything together. He's 67 now and I'm 66.

"It's like I lost my best friend."

Norma Kirkby, program director for the Manitoba branch of the Alzheimer Society, said Labelle's decision to change her life to help her husband is not unique. She said what caregivers face is the theme of this year's World Alzheimer's Month: A Journey of Caring, which is September.

Kirkby said the society estimates caregivers in the province -- usually family members -- provide more than nine million hours of informal unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

She said it is believed by the year 2038 that number will have grown to more than 22 million hours. "Every family is impacted in its own way," Kirkby said.

"People make huge life-changing choices to care for people with dementia or other diseases and no choice is right for everyone."

But Kirkby said however a person cares for their family member, they have to remember to accept adequate respite themselves.

"You have to have compassion for yourself."

Kirkby said that will be part of the message at the upcoming Care4U conference being held on Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information go to www.alzheimer.mb.ca.

Labelle said she wants to make sure her customers and brides know she is not leaving anyone in a lurch before their wedding day. She will be open until all brides and attendants have the dresses they have ordered.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2013 B2

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