Although Jim and Maureen’s relationship has changed drastically over the course of their 55 years of marriage, the love they have for each other hasn’t faded a bit. The pair can be found at their favorite café three times a week. Jim shares that this routine started after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in 2020.
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A year after this diagnosis, Maureen’s health declined rapidly in a single weekend. In fact, Jim was told that she wouldn’t survive to see the next week. Despite these odds, however, she’s still around three years later. Now, Jim does whatever he can to make the most of each day she has left.
“My philosophy is each day, I want to give Maureen the best day she can have,” Jim explains. “That statement stems from when she came out of the hospital, and each day could have been her last. We’re very lucky. With dementia, I hear that people change their personality. But she’s the same happy person.”
That’s why the loving pair can be found at their café so often — getting out is a great way for Maureen to enjoy her day. Plus, after coffee and lunch, Jim can take her for a stroll on Queenscliff Shelly Beach. This location is quite a sentimental place for the couple.
Man Finds Wholesome Way to Better the Life of His Wife With Dementia
“Our first date was to go to Queenscliff beach,” he says. “That’s the first time I held Maureen’s hand. And every day when I come to the beach, we walk down to Queenscliff and I remind her that this is where we first held hands. But she doesn’t understand.”
Maureen may not understand the significance of the beach, but it’s clear that getting out brings her joy. This can be seen in the way she tries to interact with folks around her, specifically by holding onto their hands.
Noticing this reminded Jim of a story he once heard of someone’s experience with their father who had dementia.
“He was telling me that, right at the end, the last days with his dad, they [communicate] by signals of squeezing hands and so on, so taking in a whole lot more than they realized,” Jim explains.
Jim and Maureen Are Local Celebrities
To encourage more folks to approach Maureen, Jim got a local business to create custom t-shirts for him. They read: “My beautiful wife has dementia please say ‘HELLO’ to her.” The change in the way people interacted with them changed immediately.
“What surprised me initially was that so many people were foreign tourists from all over the world,” he says. “I’d really like to thank all the people that have stopped by and had a chat to Maureen, they really brighten her day, which brightens mine.”
Jim and Maureen have become quite popular with the locals. They’ve even had folks offer to buy their coffee. Not only has this experience helped this sweet couple bond during such a difficult time in their lives, but it’s also opened Jim’s eyes to the struggles of other people in similar positions.
“I’m no expert, but as I walk along Manly Beach, I’ve been doing it for four years, I noticed a lot of people with some sort of handicap or were walking with a carer that looked lonely,” Jim says. “I’ll go up to them and say hello, to have a chat to them and I think more people should do that and just notice the people around them.”
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