Understanding the Need

Tim and Howsie Stewart have been community leaders in southern Maine all of their adult lives. Tim, a successful business man, has served on the boards of many non-profit organizations and both he and Howsie have helped raise millions of dollars for youth, health care and the arts. Howsie was a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, and served as the President of the Board.

older coupleTim and Howsie have always enjoyed their active life, especially Tim as an enthusiastic husband, father and friend. In 2010, Tim received a diagnosis of Frontal Lobe Dementia (FTD). It was then they began to understand Tim’s extreme personality shifts. He told similar jokes and stories to those around him, missing the social cues of this repetitive storytelling. It became increasingly difficult for his family and longtime friends to attend social events with Tim. Favorite restaurants and lifelong clubs asked them not to return as their patrons found his behavior embarrassing and disruptive.

Today, with the help of two part-time caregivers, Tim and Howsie are navigating the journey that dementia has thrown their way. Keeping Tim engaged is a daily challenge. Howsie and other caregivers have altered their own lives to meet his needs. Tim remains very social, and it is now easier to entertain friends and associates at home rather than go out to restaurants. Supporting Tim’s need for social engagement is yet one more challenge for Howsie.

Howsie has developed her “toolbox” of strategies, which she learned by participating in SMAA’s evidence-based “Savvy Caregiver” training. Having a few hours respite from Tim’s needs allows her mind and body to rest and refocus, which has allowed the family to keep Tim at home. With time and a lot of simple experimentation on the part of Howsie and other caregivers, Tim has begun to settle into a routine. Structure has provided him a sense of familiarity, lessening
his anxiety and improving life for everyone in the family.

Howsie frequently speaks about how little medical professionals and other care providers knew about his diagnosis. Simply understanding the disease and then how to care for Tim was a full-time endeavor for her and her daughters. The Southern Maine Agency on Aging continues to provide Howsie with caregiver support.

The Stewart’s are just one example of the many families who will benefit from the Adult Day Centers in Falmouth and Biddeford. Both programs will be the only free-standing adult day services in the region for those with dementia, and the only places of their kind to provide extensive caregiver support.