Living in the moment took on huge importance to Peter Wynn and his wife Sylvia Bergen two years ago when he was diagnosed with early-stage dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
At the time, they were living in Edmonton and both quit their jobs and moved to the Okanagan where they had vacationed just about every year, falling for the area. Since then, through the support and care they have received from the local branch of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., they have come to terms with — at least as much as possible — his condition.
“I can’t really say I was surprised,” said Bergen as she thought back to that time. “I was frightened; frightened and devastated in the sense that your life is not going to be what you expected and nothing will be the same any more. It turns everything upside down.
“There are some things you just can’t plan any more and makes all those moments you have together that much more precious.”
Wynn recalled his own reaction when he learned the results of the tests.
“My initial reaction was well, it can’t be that bad but that changed after reading some of the literature and talking with my family doctor. He said it could be a matter of years or a shorter period of time in how I deal with it in terms of my activities,” said Wynn, 63, whose mother died from dementia two years ago. “I have to take a look at it from the standpoint that as long as I can try and I can keep my brain active I stand a chance of delaying any onset of the actual, full-blown Alzheimer’s.
“At this particular point it hasn’t been a downer to have to go through this, it’s just sort like, okay, how do I deal with it, I can sit around and mope or I can stay active.”
The couple lean on each for support at this point in their lives.
“We have our challenging moments and I know there are days that are dark and difficult for Peter and the fear of what is ahead in the future, but we work at that together,” said Bergen.
Wynn has always enjoyed giving back so after retiring to Penticton, he registered to do volunteer work with South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, helps out regularly at the Alzheimer Society office and volunteers with Citizens On Patrol.
“After putting my feet up for a while I decided I’d better do something rather than sitting here getting fat and lazy,” said Wynn who has been selected at this year’s Investors Group Walk for Memories honouree. “I really enjoy doing volunteer, especially with Laurie (support and education co-ordinator Laurie Myres) at the (Alzheimer) centre. She’s always got something for me to do.
“It’s very rewarding volunteering because people you are helping actually appreciate that you’re willing to spend your time to help things move along smoothly and it’s nice to be able to give back.”
He also has advice for people with concerns about themselves or loved ones who may have some symptoms of dementia.
“If anybody is facing the prospect, like why can’t I remember things the way I used to, should probably talk to their doctor about it as soon as possible,” he said. “If you keep putting it off you end up potentially losing the chance of saying do I want to stop and enjoy life before I don’t even know my name.
“Live for that moment.”
The Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s takes place May 1 at Rotary Centennial Pavilion at Skaha Lake Park. Registration is at 1 p.m. and the walk starts at 2 p.m.