'Live in the moment': how one couple is coping with an Alzheimer's diagnosis

She was finding it challenging to find certain words during a conversation. 

That's one of the symptoms that motivated Bonnie Blank to visit her family doctor and ask for a memory test. 

At the age of 69, the Victoria resident was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"I was working hard, had some family worries," Bonnie said, "health-wise, you kind of just pass it off."

Bonnie's husband Bob Blank also had concerns about her memory. 

"I was most concerned about her last year of teaching," Bob said, "She was spending hours at work, doing what she would normally do in a shorter period of time.

"Our doctor, she did an assessment, and then opened up the system for her [Bonnie], to get the support that she needs."

Knowledge is power

Although she is now living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Bonnie expresses no regrets about deciding to investigate the cause of her health concerns.

"I think both Bob and I have approached things in our life in this way — that knowledge is power, that we would rather know what was going on and seek the support and assistance."

Bob says having more information means ensuring the best quality of life in the future.

"From my perspective, it is very difficult to know how to be supportive if you don't know what you're supporting," he said. 

Since the diagnosis, the couple have been working to simplify their life.

They have also attended the educational course, Shaping the Journey, put on by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. 

Bob says the course has given them a better understanding of what it means to have Alzheimer's.

"Just because a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's does not mean that there is a any profound change in them," Bob said.

"Bonnie is still the same person today that she was two, three, four years ago.  She is facing some cognitive challenges, but those don't change who she is." 

Greatest fear is being a burden

Bonnie says family and friends have been incredibly supportive since her diagnosis, but she still worries about the future. 

"My greatest fears are being a burden and losing my independence," Bonnie said.

"I think one of the hardest things I heard was, at one point, I might have to give up driving. That is something that I enjoy, being able to go about my own business."

Bonnie and Bob both say there have been positive changes in their relationship since the diagnosis. 

"We are so much closer," Bonnie said. "It is just moving us towards living in the moment — just don't worry about little things."