Kathy Costello - TriCities and Ridge Meadows Honouree
2023 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's
Kathy and her husband, Allan Costello, met in Vancouver and spent every day together for more than 48 years.
The day Kathy understood Allan was having visual hallucinations, she knew their lives were forever changed. As the frequency of the hallucinations increased, so did Kathy's level of concern.
Kathy first started searching for clues to Allan’s mysterious symptoms online. Because Allan did not have memory problems, Kathy initially ruled out the possibility of dementia. As Allan’s hallucinations intensified, he was admitted to the hospital where he received a working diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, which was later confirmed when he started developing the symptoms of movement disorder (things like slowed movement, rigid muscles, tremor or shuffling walk) that are sometimes associated with it. When Kathy continued to learn more about dementia — in particular Lewy body dementia, a form that doesn’t necessarily affect memory early in the journey — Allan’s hallucinations made sense to her.
The hospital referred Kathy to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and she joined a caregiver support group, where she not only received support from other caregivers but provided support to them as well. Kathy listened empathetically to others offering words of encouragement to help ease their journey. Kathy was thankful that Society staff initiated regular calls where she was able to express her concerns and learn strategies to help her overcome caregiving challenges. Allan eventually transitioned to a long-term care home, where Kathy reflects their relationship changed for the better.
"I could be his wife again," she says. "I could just be there because I have help from others, which took the stress off of me." After Allan moved to a long-term care home, Kathy’s role changed from a caregiver to being an advocate for Allan. She continued to attend caregiver support groups for both herself and to help other caregivers in their journeys.
Throughout her time caring for Allan, both while he lived at home and in long-term care, Kathy found relief when a friend encouraged her to get outside and go geocaching. With a change of scenery, Kathy was able to take a deep breath and come back refreshed.
After nearly five decades together, Kathy and Allan’s dementia journey ended when Allan passed away in late 2022. Kathy reflects on the things that were tough, but also the unexpected moments of humour and joy in their experience and has words of advice for others in similar circumstances: "You do the best that you can,” she says. “Don't expect to be perfect. If something doesn't work, try again. You care about the person and that’s why you're doing it."
Join Kathy on Sunday, May 28 for the TriCities and Ridge Meadows IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's. Together, we make memories matter.