Paul and Denise Blakebrough are adaptable people. They began their married life in England, but decided to make their home in Canada in 1958. After two decades in Ontario, they moved to Calgary, and later to Thorsby, where they lived on an acreage for 17 years.
It was their most recent move, to the town of Leduc, that took a toll on Paul. He missed the active acreage lifestyle – chopping wood, planning frequent garage sales and caring for an abundance of outdoor cats.
“He was having a rough time,” says Denise of their transition to living in town. “He just wasn’t himself.” Fortunately, the Blakebroughs had a longstanding relationship with Dr. Glenn Jeffery and the Ermineskin Medical Clinic, and Denise felt comfortable reaching out to the nursing team. The nurses listened to Denise’s concerns about Paul’s mood and memory, worked with Paul to complete some physical and cognitive testing, and suggested the Primary Care Network’s Moving for Memory workshop.
Donna Paradowski is a PCN nurse practitioner who works on the Ermineskin nursing team, and has known Paul and Denise for several years, helping Paul manage diabetes and other health issues. She says it’s important to hear patients’ stories and develop trust before making recommendations. She knew Moving for Memory would be a good fit because of her existing relationship with Paul.
“The more you can empower people, the more motivated they’ll be to follow a plan,” Donna says.
“I’ve learned a lot,” says Paul of the ten-week program, which includes education on nutrition, exercise and cognition along with an emphasis on maintaining health. Paul and Denise say they’ve incorporated some of the cognitive exercises they’ve learned at home, and have recommended Moving for Memory to friends.
“We want to give participants tools for day-to-day life,” says Kacey Keyko, clinical educator and registered nurse. She’s a facilitator of the Moving for Memory program, working alongside exercise specialist Stephanie Schlaak and occupational therapist Megan de Haan. “We’re helping people advocate for themselves by knowing what questions to ask their doctors about medications and more.” In addition to providing people with mobility concerns or co-morbidities a gentle way to begin exercising, the program encourages socialization too – “which is also good for the brain,” says Kacey.
“It gives a reason to get up and get going,” Denise confirms. In addition to making friends within the group, Paul and Denise have used the weekly appointment as an excuse to meet with their daughter for breakfast beforehand. They plan to begin a second session of Moving for Memory shortly.
While the PCN team develops and delivers the Moving for Memory program, it’s the family clinics that identify the patients who will most benefit. “Trust can be a barrier,” to trying something new, Kacey notes, which is why the longstanding relationships that are built in family medicine are so important, as are the nurses who make connections between the patients and the PCN programs.
“Nurse practitioners are invaluable,” echoes Dr. Jeffery.
“They’re our main liaison to the PCN programs, and they decide who the programs will benefit.” He appreciates that the nursing team is well-informed about PCN offerings. This allows him to focus on his individual patients, knowing the nurses can connect to further care as needed.
“That’s where the PCN shines,” he says, “in helping us look after the individual with a team approach. It’s collaborative.”
Since their wedding day more than sixty years ago, Denise and Paul have adapted and thrived in making a home and life together wherever they go. With support from their family doctor and the health team that works with them, they continue to show strength and resilience in adapting to life’s transitions.