For Julie Howell, visiting her husband Michael in the special care unit at Ryman’s Bob Owens village has been a surprisingly healing experience.
Michael, 79, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 8 years ago and now needs round-the-clock care. The care Julie sees every day has changed her view of the progressive illness.
“I wouldn’t be worried about having Alzheimer’s now. It’s been such a loving, caring experience,” says Julie. “There’s no pain, and Mike’s happy and comfortable and safe.”
Moving into the village has given the couple time to really appreciate life and their love, which spans nearly 70 years. Julie is thankful
to have that time to share with their two children and six grandchildren.
“I have a saying now, which is ‘I accept the gift that life has given me, which is today’. I live by that.
As soon as I said that, I just relaxed about the past and the future, and accepted that some things are out of my control.”
Julie was nine when she set her sights on Mike Howell.
“He got the dux at primary school and I thought, ‘Gosh, Mike Howell must be clever. I’m going to marry him!’”
Indeed, Michael was an associate professor at the Australian National University when he retired at 53. He’d played for the university cricket team against India at the age of 50.
“He did all the things you’re supposed to do – he was very mentally active, and we had veggie gardens and ate oily fish. We’d led a balanced sort of a life, so this illness was quite a shock.”
After the diagnosis, Julie realised she’d need support. In 2015 the couple moved into an independent apartment at Bob Owens, knowing that dementia care was on site for later.
That time came in March 2017. The move into care lifted a huge weight off Julie’s shoulders.
“The 24-hour care is absolutely amazing. It takes very special people to give care like that. I feel it’s the jewel in the crown of the care centre.”