I would like to express my father’s and my heartfelt gratitude to the staff of Copper Ridge Place.
My sister, Cindy, suffered from Huntington’s disease and was a resident of Copper Ridge for over five years. When Cindy passed away this December, she was 44 years old and had been fighting the disease for almost 18 years.
Huntington’s disease is a progressive disease that attacks a person’s nervous system, slowly taking away the ability of an individual to control their body. It begins with the voluntary nervous system and eventually attacks the autonomic system as well. Sufferers have continual, uncontrolled, spastic-looking movements which can require that person to ingest upwards of 5,000 calories daily just to prevent weight loss.
To say that looking after Cindy was a challenge is a massive understatement. To my knowledge, she was the only person suffering from this disease in the Yukon. This meant that there was no handy-dandy little manual for staff to refer to for tips on how to deal with Cindy’s needs. Nor is the disease so prevalent as to have a section in an equipment catalogue to order anything to help in that department.
The staff of Copper Ridge always strived to provide her dignity in meeting her requirements. When they contacted outside care facilities with more experience dealing with Huntington’s disease, they were told that Cindy’s case was unique because most people with the disease don’t last as long as she did and so they didn’t know what to advise. This didn’t stop the staff. Nobody would have blamed them if the staff had said that they just didn’t know what to do. But they always found something that worked.
I was continually amazed at the adaptations they created and the solutions they found to solve the problems they faced.
In addition to meeting Cindy’s physical needs was the loss of her ability to speak any more than “uh huh” for yes and “uh uh” for no. When she would become emotionally-distressed, the caregivers would basically have to try a 20-questions approach to find out what the situation was. Not an easy task, but very trying for those looking to provide comfort.
In the face of these multi-faceted challenges, the people of Copper Ridge did much more than look after Cindy. Those people cared for her. Cindy was important to them as a human being. She was loved by the staff.
When she passed on, it was also a loss for her caregivers. This changed Copper Ridge from Cindy’s place of residence to her home. For this, my father and I will always be grateful.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.