Dick Fairbanks didn’t see his wife Pat for six months while she was in a carehome during COVID-19 before he died Oct. 6, 2020. (Contributed)

Dick Fairbanks didn’t see his wife Pat for six months while she was in a carehome during COVID-19 before he died Oct. 6, 2020. (Contributed)

Care home restrictions break Okanagan couple’s heart

Dick and Pat Fairbanks hadn’t shared a loving embrace for more than six months before it was too late

Dick Fairbanks couldn’t hold his wife’s hand, share a kiss or even a hug due to pandemic precautions.

His wife Patricia’s dementia was heart-breaking enough to deal with, especially when she forgot his name. But living in a care home during COVID-19 meant the couple couldn’t share a loving embrace.

“I haven’t seen Pat for more than six months now,” Fairbanks told the Alzheimer Society of B.C. in late summer 2020. “The care home offered me a chance to visit and sit across the table from Pat, but we’d have to wear face masks and wouldn’t be allowed to touch each other. I know what this would do to us. We’ve always held hands and shared a kiss and a hug. Now, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m afraid it would upset her too much.”

So, the husband stayed with the virtual meetings on Skype.

READ MORE: Alzheimer’s Society of B.C. offers free webinars for those affected by dementia

“Most of the time she knows I’m her husband, but she’s forgotten my name now. She had two serious falls recently and ended up in hospital. Her face was black and blue, her right eye swollen and her dentures were broken in half. I could only keep her awake for two minutes at a time. Those things really tear me up. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.”

Pat was first diagnosed with dementia about six years ago. The last two years she was living at home became very overwhelming.

“One night, I woke to find her bed was empty. Her shoes were still there but the flashlight was missing. Four hours later, we found her in the trash room,” Fairbanks said.

She moved into long-term care in March 2019.

While the move and current restrictions have been hard, Fairbanks says love has helped them both.

“If I had one piece of advice, it would be to love them right to the end. They need it and you need it. It’s a terrible disease but with support and help you’ll get through it.”

That loving embrace never came for the Fairbanks couple.

Richard Dwight Fairbanks died Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 85, in an accident, according to his obituary.

Support for those struggling with dementia and their caregivers is available through the Alzheimer Society of B.C., specifically the First Link® Dementia Helpline. The Helpline is for anyone (caregivers, people living with dementia, health-care providers or anyone else in the community) in need of support and information, including connecting to a local resource centre. More information on the Helpline is available at alzbc.org/dhl.

Or call 1-800-936-6033, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For Cantonese and Mandarin call 1-833-674-5007, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For Punjabi call 1-833-674-5003, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Someone might call in because they’re starting to see changes in themselves or someone close to them and want to learn more about the warning signs and how to get a diagnosis,” said Carly Gronlund, the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s provincial coordinator for the dementia Helpline. “Most callers are caregivers who need to know who to call or where to turn. We guide them towards services that will help them build the skills and confidence to live well with dementia.

“We understand the journey that people affected by dementia are on and how overwhelming everything can feel, especially at the moment. We want to make ourselves as available as possible.”

– with files courtesy of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

READ MORE: Okanagan man rides the rail trail in support of Alzheimer’s Society


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Alzheimer's DiseaseCoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mandatory masks has caused a division of opinion and increased hostility by the anti-mask movement. (Western News file photo)
OPINION: ‘I wear a mask for people like this daughter who hasn’t seen her mom since February’

‘Her story broke me…maybe because I had just watched protesters laughing in their unmasked revelry’

Steve French caught the halo moon on his camera on Saturday night. (Steve French Facebook)
Did you see the halo moon last night?

The halo is actually millions of tiny ice crystals

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

One of the Penticton Fire Department engines. (File)
Penticton fire chief proposes new engine, more staff for 2021

Council approved the requests in their budget deliberations on Nov. 24

Supt. Brian Hunter will be presenting first quarter RCMP stats to Penticton city council, tomorrow (April 21). (Phil McLachlan - Western News - File)
Penticton RCMP head wants to set up dedicated prolific offender task force

Supt. Brian Hunter plans to use the additional officers city council approved for the force

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A confirmed case of COVID-19 at Vernon’s Silver Star Elementary School has been reported. (Google Maps)
COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Member of Silver Star Elementary community in Vernon self-isolating at home; parents alerted Nov. 28

Real Canadian Superstore in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
Kelowna Superstore employee tests positive for COVID-19

The last day the employee worked was Nov. 23

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP issue warning after woman assaulted while walking in Kelowna

On Saturday, the unknown man ran up and grabbed her in an inappropriate manner before fleeing

A West Cabs driver is being investigated for an incident which allegedly took place this week. (West Cabs)
West Kelowna cab driver under investigation after altercation over his lack of mask

Passenger alleges cab driver became confrontational when asked about wearing mask

(Pixabay)
‘We need to be empathetic’; Kelowna support worker speaks out after disabled individual denied haircut

Individual with severe autism denied service at a Kelowna hair salon for not wearing mask

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at North Okanagan elementary school prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

Most Read