Don and Barbara met on a blind date in 1956. “Which is ironic,” says Don, “because I wasn’t blind then.”
When he was 40, Don was on a fishing trip with friends when he suddenly lost vision in his right eye. Through multiple doctor’s visits and surgeries, Don was told he would lose sight in both of his eyes due to something called retinal detachment.
Though his diagnosis meant many hard days ahead for both him and Barbara, Don remained strong in his faith and in his sense of humour. Now 85, Don cares for his 83-year-old wife despite his vision loss. Barbara was diagnosed with dementia and requires aroundthe-clock care.
Having always been “modest,” as Don describes it, Barbara is not comfortable with just anyone helping her, so she relies heavily on him for support. For Don, it’s a labour of love as he helps Barbara with almost all of her daily activities.
For most of their marriage, they lived in a house in Burlington where they raised their son. Now, because Barbara can no longer use the stairs, they have moved into an apartment. They hope to stay there together for as long as possible.
Thanks to United Way and donors like you, Don and Barbara have help in that mission from a volunteer who shops for groceries, cooks meals, attends medical appointments and completes other household and personal care tasks.
Don and Barbara describe their volunteer as “part of the family.” They also have support in navigating the social service programs in their community. A program coordinator has offered options like friendly visiting, assistance with transportation and recently suggested a day respite program to allow Don a break from his caregiving responsibilities.
Don and Barbara had not expected to need this level of support, but they are glad it is available. “How grateful I am that Canada has these types of organizations,” Don says. “We are so fortunate to live here and have this help. If our care workers weren’t there, if people didn’t understand … well, it’s a lonely life.”
Fortunately, that help is available. “The volunteers make a world of difference in our lives. Without these people, I would have a world of blackness.”
Thanks to your support, Don and Barbara can to continue their lives where they belong – together. “What can I say?” says Don. “She’s the love of my life.”
When children and adults with intellectual disabilities have an opportunity to participate in programs, “its almost like there’s a seed that’s planted, and it gets nourished by the interactions with their peers, program facilitators, and community as a whole”.