Alzheimer’s Care in Nova Scotia
Helena “Heli” Munroe earned her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, with her specialty in Alzheimer’s disease. But this didn’t protect Dr. Munroe from succumbing to Alzheimer’s herself. Originally from the UK, Heli Munroe and her husband Alasdair lived in Nova Scotia. As her descent into Alzheimer’s began, the two lived near Fisherman’s Memorial Hospital, where she received most of her therapy.
But in 2005, something quite unusual happened. Dr. Munroe was taken by her brother to England, because he claimed that she was very unhappy in Nova Scotia. Her husband was shocked by his brother-in-law’s action, and accused him of kidnapping his wife. Mr. Munroe was even more shocked when he realized he did not have legal guardianship over the woman whose rapid cognitive decline was made it impossible to make clear her own wishes about where she wanted to live and with whom.
While for Mr. Munroe the action was kidnapping, for Heli’s family it was rescuing. The family accused Alasdair Munroe of domestic abuse, which he vehemently denied. Some nurses who worked with Heli Munroe did suggest that Mr. Munroe’s behavior was sometimes concerning, and even more concerning was the couple’s estranged son living in a remote area of British Columbia, who claimed he had seen his father choking his mother before. But friends of the family – including Heli Munroe’s doctors – supported Munroe’s rebuttal of the accusations.
Meanwhile, Heli Munroe could not speak for herself.
Finally, in the fall of 2009, Heli Munroe’s ashes returned to her husband in Nova Scotia. Over the summer, Dr. Heli Munroe had slipped into a coma and died of Alzheimer’s. Just as he had fought for the return of his wife, he also fought to have her ashes returned. This battle, he won. But it is a bittersweet victory.
Who Can Make Decisions About Alzheimer’s Care?
The family feud over Heli Munroe underscored a need for clearer laws regarding care for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, both in Nova Scotia and throughout Canada. Specifically, does the spouse or the family speak for the individual with Alzheimer’s by default?
For more information regarding care for elders with Alzheimer’s in Nova Scotia, a good place to start is the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. An advocacy and support group for people with Alzheimer’s and their family, their website makes it easy to find resources on the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease, as well as links to services for people living with Alzheimer’s in Nova Scotia.