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 required round-the-clock care.
Having always been “modest,” as Don describes it, Barbara was not comfortable with just anyone helping her, so she relied heavily on him for support. For Don, it was a labour of love as he helped 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. Eventually, Barbara was no longer able to use the stairs, and the pair moved into an apartment.
Thanks to United Way and donors like you, Don and Barbara had help in that mission from a volunteer who shopped for groceries, cooked meals, attended medical appointments and completed other household and personal care tasks.
Don and Barbara described their volunteer as “part of the family.” They also had support in navigating the social service programs in their community. A program coordinator offered options like friendly visiting, assistance with transportation and suggested a day respite program to allow Don a break from his care-giving responsibilities.
Don and Barbara had not expected to need this level of support, but they were glad it is available. “How grateful I am that Canada has these types of organizations,” Don said. “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 continued with their lives where they belong – together. “What can I say?” says Don. “She’s the love of my life.”
Mimmo says, “We’re always busy. I like keeping busy.” His colleague Dean reports, “My family is very proud that I work here.” Tony, yet another member of the Community Living Hamilton team, reports, “I love working here. There’s people to talk to.”