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Dementia taking bitter toll on seniors

Dementia is becoming a heavy burden on Bermuda's growing elderly population, and does not spare veterans and their families who face limited options for care.

A case in point is veteran Herbert Tatem, 94, whose wife, Dorothy, finds herself too old to look after him.

“All I know is that he needs help now,” Mrs Tatem told The Royal Gazette.

“For all these years, I took care of him, and now I can't do it any more. I'm 92. I need to help myself.”

November, leading up to Remembrance Day on the 11th, is the time to celebrate local veterans and their families — and the poppy appeal, a key fundraiser for their help, is more urgent than ever.

“Our goal is to fund a nursing home specifically for people with dementia,” said Carol Everson, a welfare case worker with the Bermuda Legion. “There's a very uncertain future ahead.”

Mr Tatem, a Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps veteran, was having “a good day” when The Royal Gazette visited, according to his wife.

But the housebound Mr Tatem was frank when it came to the severity of his condition, saying: “Sometimes I can't call her name.”

With arthritis and a heart condition, Mrs Tatem treasures the assistance of a caretaker, but is increasingly troubled when she thinks of the future.

“My muscles are worn out,” she said. “And Herbert can't help me with anything.”

The island has almost 200 war veterans and widows, according to Ms Everson, with dementia and Alzheimer's becoming an unfortunate reality for growing numbers.

“There are only three facilities on the island that can adequately care for people with high levels of dementia. Two have been full for months. The third, Westmeath, has a high cost, which is a deterrent to many.

“The Tatems are better off than a lot of others, but their lives are nonetheless on a downward slope.”

The legion provides a broad range of assistance to veterans, with the ultimate dream of raising sufficient funds to offer a badly needed nursing home and assisted-living facility — something Ms Everson concedes is “a very, very big endeavour — it's very much blue-sky thinking”.

However, from November 1 to 11, the poppy appeal is the most visible public face of that effort.

“Any chance for people to help during the poppy appeal, by distributing poppies for donations, is very gratefully received,” Ms Everson said.

Poppy wreaths are provided to the legion by the Royal Bermuda Regiment for distribution in schools, churches, or for any other organisation that wishes.

To get involved, to donate, or to pitch in for the legion's tag day in Hamilton on November 7, call 703-1020, 293-3975 or email nosoldierleftbehind@hotmail.com

Increasingly troubled: war veteran Herbert Tatem, 94, with wife and primary caregiver Dorothy

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Published October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated October 29, 2016 at 7:11 am)

Dementia taking bitter toll on seniors

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