When Joan Peterson was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 15 years ago, she and her husband, Pat, decided to tackle it head on.

"We made our mind up soon as the diagnosis took place that we weren't going to try to hide it," said Pat.

"We weren't going to try to act as if, well, there's nothing wrong. We felt that the sooner people know and understand that things are different that the better it would be for them and us."

For more than a decade Pat was the sole caretaker of his wife. 


Pat and Joan Peterson share a hug at Shannex Parkland in Fredericton (Lauren Bird)

"It was preparing the meals, keeping an eye on things night and day and helping getting her dressed … It was 24/7 keeping an eye on things and we did that until about two years ago," said Pat. 

That's when Pat, 78, and Joan, 81, moved in with their daughter. But last March, Joan started needing more care.

"The house had stairs in it and her doctors, both the aging doctor and the family doctor, suggested there was a strong possibility she could fall down stairs, so we explored different alternatives." 

Joan has been living in Shannex Parkland since. 

It's been an adjustment for the couple, who've been married for nearly 60 years, but Pat visits every day. 

"We usually sit together, talk, watch television and I take her out to her lunch at 11:30," Pat said.

'Maybe about 10 minutes after I've gone in the morning she will forget I was here.' - Pat Peterson

Sometimes they participate in exercise classes together or other activities in Shannex, but the reality remains. 

"Her short-term memory isn't very good," Pat said. "Maybe about 10 minutes after I've gone in the morning she will forget I was here."

Still, Pat said Joan has a good sense of humour about her condition, but sometimes because of her memory she doesn't know why she feels certain things. 

"One of the things that is a bit upsetting it that Joan has become good friends with two or three people and sort of had a best friend and for one reason or another they move on either permanently or to another level of care. And although she will have forgotten the person or the name, she will be down in the dumps or sad and not know why."

They're now waiting for Joan to move to the next level of care, Level 3, which is full nursing care. They plan to stay at Shannex for that because too much change can be confusing for Joan and they like it there.