Couple braves dementia

Chelsea Powrie

Willi Brombach sat close to his wife on the couch at the Penticton Alzheimer Society centre Friday morning, occasionally leaning in to her shoulder or reaching to grasp the hand she moved toward him, attentive to her every movement. 

Stella Adams suffers from dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease, and Brombach is her rock. Together, they are sharing their story as part of January's Alzheimer's Awareness Month to help shed light on the truth about living with the disease. 

"There's so many people who are not aware of what's really going on, the immensity of it all," Brombach said. 

Adams' diagnosis came about after her usually sunny behaviour began to change into negativity and she lost track of events going on in their lives, especially when they were selling their house in Naramata. 

"She was getting quite negative on things. We were pushing, we had to sell the house, but everything we did she was, 'It's not going to work, it's not going to work,'" Brombach said. 

Adams was diagnosed and the pair now live in Penticton close to a grocery store and amenities so that Adams can retain her independence, though they modify their life on a daily basis to make sure she is safe. Adams carries around a pocket-sized pouch with her name, address and phone number everywhere she goes. 

"Because when we first moved here I couldn't remember the phone number, I couldn't," Adams said. "Wherever I am, I carry my house keys, and this is a 20-dollar bill to take me home by taxi if I don't know where I'm going."

Adams is remarkably upbeat discussing her limitations, and credits Brombach with being her inspiration to stay positive. But Brombach said there are darker times too, though he doesn't let that bring either of them down. 

"She's not all that positive sometimes. She cries a lot," Brombach said. "But it's okay, I say, go ahead, have a good cry, it always helps."

The pair attend programs at the Alzheimer Society together. Adams engages in physical and cognitive therapy and Brombach takes part in programs aimed at caregivers for those with dementia.

Mary Beth Rutherford, support and education coordinator with the society, hopes these kind of programs will help continue to erase misconceptions about an Alzheimer's diagnosis. 

"People often think it's the last final stages, and that's not what it is," Rutherford said. "I think people think you totally have no mind anymore, and they don't realize it doesn't mean you've lost all your memories or your abilities."

Adams and Brombach have kept their sense of humour and ability to tease each other despite the challenges they face each day.

"Who knows, maybe I'm next, my turn comes up next time," Brombach said, explaining the importance of awareness, to which Adams replied with a big smile and a chuckle, "You have to look after me!"

The Alzheimer Resource Centre in downtown Penticton will be hosting a "Dementia Friends" workshop later this month for anyone wishing to learn how to support friends and family living with dementia. Registration can be done by emailing Mary Beth Rutherford at [email protected]

For more information on the services offered locally, click here

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