Unveiling of the Carefor Caregivers’ Garden
On September 16th, Carefor awarded Joana, Amanda and Alyssa Malette the inaugural Carefor Caregiver Award in recognition of their exceptional work supporting their husband and father, Vince, and for their efforts to make life better for other caregivers and people living with dementia.
As Assistant Coach, Vince Malette helped guide the Ottawa 67s to the Memorial Cup in 1999. Fifteen years later he was diagnosed with young onset dementia. He was 52. While a dementia diagnosis is unfortunately becoming increasingly common, being diagnosed at such a young age is less so.
At the time of diagnosis, he and his wife, Joana, were still raising their two daughters, Alyssa and Amanda. Once they had moved out to start their own lives, Joana imagined a life with Vince, one that she had not had with him spending so much time on the road.
The last nine years have been miles from what she expected. Now as a fulltime caregiver, her life revolves around Vince. As is the case with Alzheimer’s, the disease slowly removes the person, replacing independence with increased need.
Often a family dealing with Alzheimer's retreats from their world. It’s a common and understandable response to a tragic circumstance. It becomes harder to go out, to connect with friends, for your situation to be relatable. It’s easier for a caregiver to isolate and quietly do everything they can to make what time they have with their loved one the best it can be.
The Malette Family went a different direction. The family sat with Vince and talked to him what he wanted to do about their situation and he said he wanted to help. So they created the Vince Malette Face-Off to End Alzheimer’s Golf Tournament bringing together their friends and family to raise money to help people living with the disease.
Since starting the tournament three years ago, the Malette’s and their community have raised over $120,000, which has been used to create the Vince Malette Functional Fitness Program with Carefor-. This day program is now offered in two locations in Ottawa and helps people living with the disease maintain the functionality and mobility often lost from the disease. It also gives their loved ones a much-needed break.
The Carefor Caregiver Award was presented to the Malette Family at the unveiling of the Carefor Caregivers’ Garden event in Strathcona Park, which included Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, City Councillor Stephanie Plante, Mike Ritchie from Ritchie Feed & Seed and Carefor CEO Steve Perry. In thanks for receiving the award, Joana Malette shared these words:
Thank you, Steve, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Mike (Ritchie), Stephanie (Plante), Robin and to my family and friends for being here today.
To Carefor and all the people that helped in any way to organize and create this beautiful caregivers' garden and event.
Thank you for choosing our family to receive this very significant caregivers' award. This award represents all caregivers that care for loved ones.
Being a caregiver is not easy, it's exhausting at times and we wear many hats from the time our loved one wakes up until the time they go to bed.
When my husband is finally asleep, as I watch him sleep I say to myself I did my best today to care for you with all my love, and I also made sure I gave myself the care and love that I needed too.
I thank God for giving me this blessing to be able to care for my husband, but I could not have done this alone, I would not have been able to this without the help of programs, Carefor, support workers, family and friends.
Our family is extremely grateful for all the help we received.
I'm tired, but I never get tired of caring for my husband. I never thought my life would be where it is today, but I can still make sure that I can make a beautiful life with my husband.
Thank you to the Malette Family and to all caregivers who support families and friends across our city.