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WFA hon van 2024

Heather Sosa - Vancouver Honouree

2024 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's

Heather Sosa does not want people to fear dementia. Despite facing a challenging path to receiving a dementia diagnosis for her husband, Curt, and a hard road since, Heather is a solutions-oriented person. She is determined to share her story so other people do not feel alone on the dementia journey.

Heather’s concerns about Curt’s well-being began after he injured his head on a job site in 2008. Once a shy man, Heather noticed he was making frequent appointments with his family doctor and becoming increasingly angrier with his workplace environment.

“Over the next five to 10 years, things got worse,” Heather says. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Heather was confused by the changes in her husband: Curt could still do some things successfully, but felt tired and was having trouble remembering familiar environments. During the pandemic, she knew she needed help.

“We live on the seventh floor and he was confusing windows with doors,” Heather says. “I thought something really terrible might happen.”

Heather initially sought help from mental health professionals. Curt was admitted to hospital and Heather was relieved he was getting help, but she was confused by the messages she received from the care team.

“They told me he wasn’t like anyone else in here,” Heather says. “I didn’t understand what that meant.”

Curt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. He needed support at home and because she still needed to work full-time, Heather was concerned about being able to provide it. Their son, Jackson, lives at home with them but also works full-time. The family was referred to different day programs, but they did not work for Curt. Their only alternative was for Curt to be at home by himself while Heather worked, but his safety was a concern.

“Opportunities to get help would come up but they weren’t a good fit, or they did fit but they’d end,” Heather says. “Our greatest challenge was and is that we don’t have a good roadmap for how to navigate this journey.”

Fortunately, Heather is a problem-solver. She contacted her case worker and advocated for increased staffing at a day program Curt liked, so he could continue to participate. She and her son have also worked together to split their work schedules, so her husband does not have to be home by himself.

“We’re just tired,” Heather says.

Her managers supported the need to adjust her work schedule, but she struggled to talk to others about what she was going through.

“The grief was incredible,” Heather says. “People don’t know how to talk about dementia, so they don’t. I felt very isolated.”

Heather not only struggled to find adequate support for her husband, she had a tough time finding it for herself. Caregiver groups were not a great fit and because she was still working, it was hard to find time to participate in longer-format learning sessions. Heather is grateful for what she has learned from other people who share on social media and for her son’s help at home. She has also become involved with advocacy work that focuses on improving dementia diagnosis guidelines for health-care providers.

“When something doesn’t feel right, I’m not quiet about it,” Heather says. “Change can only happen if you use your voice and I feel proud that I’ve learned to use mine.”

Heather hopes that the conversation about dementia will move from fear to awareness. She wants everyone to grow up learning about the disease so they can help other people through it.

“I don’t want to scare people,” Heather says. “There’s still joy in our days. You find new ways of connecting.”

Heather, Curt and Jackson have learned to laugh about mistakes Curt makes or ask questions when he’s confused. They play games and find ways to have fun together.

“I see how happy he is when we’re together,” Heather says. “We hang on to the good moments.” 

Join Heather & Curt on Sunday, May 26 for the Vancouver IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's