Shelia MacDonald faithfully cares for husband who is deep in dementia

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 23, 2016

Sheila MacDonald says she is “really shocked...humbled and honoured” to receive the Ferne Stevenson Caregiver Award from the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I. The award recognizes a caregiver who exemplifies compassion in person-centred care while promoting programs and services for those affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

©THE GUARDIAN/Jim Day

Devotes herself to ailing husband who seems not to recognize her, but still she keeps a faithful ministry to him

Sheila MacDonald knows when she visits her husband faithfully every day that he is, for the most part, looking back at a stranger.

“He has a slight recognition from time to time,’’ says Sheila.

“It is very difficult.’’

Still, she makes her way to the Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast daily to spend time with her husband, Marcellus. She has done so for the past six years that Marcellus has lived at the nursing community care facility.

Marcellus, now 80, was diagnosed with dementia 11 years ago.

Sheila credits an “extraordinary amount of family support’’ for allowing her to keep her husband home for as long as she did.

“I was gradually taking over more and more duties – making decisions,’’ she recalls.

“He was quite willing to let me take over.’’

While Marcellus has around-the-clock care at the nursing home, Sheila wants to do what she can to help.

She feeds him.

They watch the news together.

She escorts him to musical performances at the Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge.

And when the weather is pleasant, she rolls her husband outdoors in his wheelchair.

“We pray together,’’ she adds. “That is something we did at home.’’

Sheila does not see caring for her husband as a chore. She sees it more as her ministry.

“Because I love my husband very much, it makes it easier — not easy but easier — to visit him every day,’’ she says.

“He’s a wonderful man.’’

Marcellus was, she is quick to note, a man who worked tirelessly for many years as a dairy farmer. A father of four, grandfather of 12 and great grandfather of 14, he was also heavily involved with family.

He was active, too, in politics.

Fiddle music, playing cards and travel were among his passions.

The slow progression of dementia, Sheila notes, whittled away at all of that.

But she makes a concerted effort to ensure her husband has the best life possible in his journey with dementia.

“Sheila is a devoted spouse, dedicated to advocating for the best quality of life for her husband, and, in turn, through her selfless efforts, she has raised and continues to raise the bar of excellence in providing the best care to persons with dementia,’’ says Linda Boudreault, services for seniors co-ordinator with Home Based and Long Term Care.

Sheila reaches out to many caregivers, encouraging them to attend the Montague Caregiver Support Group, which she facilitates each month as a volunteer for the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I.

On Wednesday, Sheila was recognized for her caring disposition.

The Alzheimer Society presented Sheila with the Ferne Stevenson Caregiver Award in recognition of being a caregiver who exemplifies compassion in person-centred care while promoting programs and services for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“Well, I mean, I’m really shocked,’’ said Sheila.

“I’m humbled and I’m honoured…I’m sure that there are many deserving people beside myself.’’