In June 2018, Riverside Glen general manager Bryce McBain sent an e-mail to some of the Schlegel Villages support office team members. Attached were two photos, one with a resident named Frank sitting in a purple GoKart looking out from behind a yellow helmet, the other of Bryce alongside another resident named Don on a different kart.
The subject line of the email: “Unspecified Dementia at its Finest.”
“This is what living on Emma’s at (Riverside Glen) with a diagnosis of unspecified dementia looks like,” Bryce wrote. The trip to the track that summer day wasn’t an outing for people living with dementia or a support program – “we just were a group of friends that had a great time,” Bryce said.
Don wanted Bryce to drive, that day, Bryce recalled, and Frank was more comfortable on his own so the staff member at the track, with no thought of a diagnosis or question of capacity, suggested he ride in a single kart and the team agreed. “He was the safest driver on the track,” Bryce said, and when the track operator waved Frank in, he took one extra lap for good measure, his smile wide upon his face.
He was living in the moment and enjoying every second of it.
“Frank taught us a lesson this day,” Bryce later said, “to never underestimate the capacity of people living with dementia.”
January is Alzheimer’s awareness month and within Schlegel Villages, this presents an opportunity to focus on the fact that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is not an automatic disabler. Many, many residents throughout the villages are affected, yet live well each day, finding joy in the good moments and leaning on the support of the community when the moments are a little more difficult.
Because life really is lived moment to moment at that point, and the core of the Schlegel Villages approach to dementia centres on making each moment as good as it can be, taking that extra lap around the track, so to speak.