Lorna

audio
Age at interview
68
Age at start of caregiving activities
56

Lorna (68 years old) is married and has one grown child. Her husband (72 years old) has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 12 years ago. Lorna increasingly cares for her husband but is still able to take time for herself as well. She feels her life is more at peace now that they are both retired and spending more time at home.

Twelve years ago, Lorna’s husband had a minor stroke. Shortly afterwards, Lorna and her husband noticed that he was having trouble writing. In the recovery period after the stroke, the doctor diagnosed Lorna’s husband with Parkinson’s disease. Lorna’s husband responded so well to the medication for Parkinson’s that during the first ten years of the disease their lives were hardly affected. However, the disease has progressed rapidly during the past two years, and Lorna’s husband now has a lot more pain and difficulty with walking. Despite new medications and drug combinations that his specialists are trying to reduce the progression of the symptoms, his illness seems to be reaching a point where the medication is no longer effective.

Lorna and her husband realized that they could no longer do all the things they were able to do before. However, they have adapted to this new situation by taking a step back and changing some of their habits. For instance, Lorna is now driving and learning how to cook, which is something that her husband used to do before. They also are more open and direct about informing their friends about her husband’s condition and whether or not they will be able to participate in certain activities. 

Lorna has recently undergone medical tests as she was having trouble with her heart rate and breathing. She was relieved to learn that her symptoms were most likely the result of anxiety and not a severe physical disease. Through counselling, she is now learning to cultivate her patience and deal more effectively with the stress caused by her situation. For example, Lorna tries to change her mood and her thinking by telling herself to be grateful that she is able to care for her husband instead of just feeling bad about her situation. She feels increasingly thankful that she will be able to continue to care for her husband and appreciates the fact that she and her husband have now grown closer together and talk more.

Lorna and her husband find great support in the local Parkinson’s organization. Lorna visits the caregiver’s group and her husband meets people living with the same disease. She sometimes finds it hard to see friends increasingly affected by the illness.  

Lorna and her husband are actively seeking ways to accept their situation and to appreciate the positive things that come out of their experience. Thanks to the changes that Lorna and her husband have made, she feels that the caregiving is no longer having the negative impact on her life it once did.

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The most positive? I guess, I guess just being able to help him. He was always the type of person that took care of any, everything. Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and I can help him. And like he said about the driving, “I feel so bad that you have to do all the driving,” and I said, “Well, you know what? For the last 60 years you’ve been doing all the driving. Now you just have to sit and let me drive. Just enjoy the ride.” That kind of thing, just help. Cooking, I didn’t like cooking at all, and he loves it. But he has to put up with my cooking. And I’m starting to enjoy it you know, starting to, yeah. It’s just that I can help him I think.

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I guess I’ve cut back on a lot of things myself now. And because he’s not driving anymore, he wants to go and do his exercises. The Parkinson’s have an exercise class so I’m not doing my own. I used to go swimming, but because it conflicts, the time is not good. I’d say it’s changed, […] but I get up early now and I walk instead and just try and work around it. But I do, I work one morning a week. I volunteer at our 55+ Centre, the older adult centre, and I really like it. I just love it because I keep my skills up. Different people, 4 hours of just… and it’s a happy place. So I haven’t quit that, but some of my other things I’ve quit. Like through the church and stuff like that, I don’t do that anymore.

Yeah, I used to volunteer for the Magnus Theatre, a little theatre group here. And I enjoyed that, but it’s at night and he’s so tired at night. I was just finding it too stressful to go and leave him. And I’m okay with it because I’ve done it for about 20 some years and it was time for a little change. So, the things that I have quit, I’ve been comfortable with. So it isn’t, I don’t feel put out about it.

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Probably not any different than anybody else. I worry the fact that we don’t have an elevator here, so if he gets to have trouble on the steps, we may have to move—although he doesn’t have any problem with the steps at all. He just has [problems] with the freezing. That concerns me because I sure wouldn’t want to move. That’s such a big job.

Did you live here for a long time in this house?

We moved in just—he had the stroke just after we moved in. We had our stuff out at a camp and he was working out at the camp too. He was doing too much, trying to do too much.