Penticton couple cope with devastating effects of dementia

Walk for Memories set for Sunday at Cherry Lane shopping centre

Bob and Vera Murray spend a quiet moment together at Haven Hill Retirement Centre where Vera now resides. This Sunday’s Investor’s Group Walk for Memories in support of the Alzheimer’s Society is dedicated to the Penticton woman.

Watching the slow cognizant decline of a family member or close friend can be a living nightmare for loved ones.

The difficult days turn into weeks, months and often years, which is why Alzheimer’s has earned the terrible reputation as the long goodbye.

It’s something Bob Murray, whose wife of 63 years suffers from dementia, knows all too well.

“Good days, bad days? They’re pretty well all bad,” said Bob with a shake of his head. “I met Vera when we were 14 years old going to school in Oliver, but now when I see her I don’t even think she knows who I am.

“But there’s really not a lot you can do about it, it’s just the nature of the disease and you do the best you can. I can accept that. I know it’s part of the illness, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”

About five years ago Vera first began experiencing the symptoms of dementia, which have steadily worsened.

As difficult as it is, as often as he can Bob still tries to get to Haven House Retirement Centre to visit her.

Today is one of those days

Sitting together in a favourite, sunny spot at the residence, her husband still knows the little things to make Vera smile, a touch on her cheek or sometimes just holding her hands in his.

Unable to speak, the thin lines of her lips turn up as she watches him, but there is no sugar coating the problem as she obviously struggles to understand.

Helping the couple and other members of their family through these difficult times have been the people and resources of the Penticton-based South Okanagan-Similkameen Alzheimer’s Society of B.C.

“They’re a lovely couple and still really tight and through thick and thin they’ve weathered it as best they can,” said Laurie Myres, support and education co-ordinator for the local office. “Regardless of what it is caused by, any type of dementia is a terrible, cruel thing to see happening to someone you care about.”

But that’s also why she has dedicated her efforts — despite the emotional toll it sometimes extracts from her personally — to helping sufferers and their caregivers and raising awareness.

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month which includes the annual B.C. Investors Group Walk for Memories.

Each walk is dedicated to an honouree, a person who has been impacted by the disease or related dementia.

This time around it’s Vera who will be the person who will be recognized Sunday as the 100-plus participants do their laps at Cherry Lane shopping centre.

“It really is important for people like Bob and Vera that we show support for this because we really need to find a cure very, very quickly,” said Myres.

“I just hope we can put more pressure on the right scientists to get some sort of cause and cure figured out.”

Bob agreed with the need to find a cure, but also pointed to the critical requirement in the interim for the ongoing assistance provided by the society.

“Just support from other people who have the illness, and Laurie  is very good,” he said. “It really is a good place to go once a month and they have offered us so much helpful information as well as a compassionate ear whenever we drop by or call about a problem.”

The Murrays have four daughters they raised while Bob was serving in the military before retiring to the Okanagan.

After coming back here, Vera became  involved in the Meals on Wheels program to which she dedicated much of her time and efforts.

She is described by those who know her as a very caring woman, always giving of her time and unconditional love to help others, and Myres believes the community has an opportunity to give back through support of the event.

Registration for Sunday’s fundraiser begins at 7:45 a.m. and the walk takes place from 8:30 – 10 a.m. For more information call 250-493-8182 or visit the society website at