Husband who cares for his wife with Alzheimer’s at home slated to received the Heart of Homecare Award
Numerous colourful artworks adorn the walls of the Heeney’s century-old farmhouse on the outskirts of Ingersoll.
They are the handiwork of Elizabeth Heeney, a local professional artist, whose works have been displayed in art galleries around the province.
“She painted the way she wanted to paint,” said her husband of 64 years, Fred Heeney. “She never wanted to paint anything the way you would take a picture of it — she had too much imagination for that.”
The couple, who met 65 years ago at a church conference at Dundas Street United Church, will celebrate their 64th anniversary this fall.
Their marriage has been full of family, farming and travel, which included a trip to Israel and a safari through Tanzania.
They’ve been to almost every part of Canada and on their last trip four or five years ago, they travelled to Churchill, Manitoba to admire the beluga whales.
It was about that time Heeney, now 85, noticed a change in his wife, who he describes as “a very kind, loving person.”
“It started off with forgetfulness,” he said.
Today she needs constant care, which her husband is happy to provide.
“I do everything for her,” he said.
It’s a tough job to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, but Heeney is determined his 86-year-old wife will continue to live with him in their rural home.
“She’s going to stay here as long as I can look after her,” Heeney said.
His reason is simple. He loves her.
“Love, you know, grows,” he said. “When you get married we think we love each other. After a few years there is more to love than we thought at the start. That’s what keeps you going – the love you have for the person.”
But it’s not always easy.
“The hardest thing about it is Elizabeth knows she is not right,” he said. “She asks, ‘What is the matter with me?’ It really gets to you.”
On Monday the retired farmer turned caregiver will receive the Heart of Homecare Award from VHA Home Healthcare in the category of caregiver to an adult.
VHA Home Healthcare spokesperson Christina Zimmermann said Heeney was chosen because of his devotion to his wife and the fact he wants to keep her at home as long as he can.
“He’s a beautiful example of what it means to be a lovely and extraordinary caregiver,” she said. “It’s a real-life Notebook story.”