Paul Szakacsi was 21 when he arrived in Canada from his native Hungary eager to build the life he dreamed of.
Already a machinist by trade, Paul worked at General Motors (GM) for a decade before he began to design and fabricate his own products and started Rider Tool and Manufacturing Co. in Oshawa, Ont.
"He was so talented and determined to be successful," notes Eva, his loving wife of 43 years.
Paul built a nice life for his blended family, which included four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He loved to travel, play cards and socialize. He loved hosting parties and being around people he cared about.
When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease four years ago, Paul was still very much the same man.
"When we found out, he was still healthy and we travelled to Europe," recalls Eva. "I'm glad we did."
However, over time the disease increasingly worsened and Eva found it more and more difficult to care for him.
When they returned to Oshawa from their Florida home last March, Paul's symptoms and behaviours had become too much for Eva to manage.
"It was really time to do something," says Eva. "I could not handle it any more. I needed help. He was really aggressive and unpredictable."
At one point, while still being cared for at home, Paul thought he was back at work. The 83-year-old picked up his tools and walked around the couple's condo building knocking on the doors of neighbours.
Following a two-week hospital stay, Paul was admitted to the new Geriatric Transitional Unit (GTU) at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores), a specialty mental health hospital in Whitby, Ont.
The 20-bed inpatient unit provides specialized services for older adults with dementia, presenting with complex behaviours, who are in an acute care hospital and require specialized mental health care treatment to support their return to the community.
GTU provides assessment, stabilization, treatment and management of dementia-related behaviours with the goal of timely community reintegration so that patients can successfully transition to long-term care or the referring organization.
"They really looked after him," says Eva. "They understood what to do when he was agitated and how to care for him. I'm so grateful for how they treated him and for how much I learned about how to manage him."
Eva says she has several fond memories from her husband's two-month stay on GTU. However, there was one nurse in particular that always caught Paul's attention.
"She was so great with him. So much energy and so patient," recalls Eva. "His eyes lit up whenever he saw her."
GTU assists the local health system to respond to capacity pressures experienced in acute care hospitals when patients with challenging behaviours no longer require acute care but are not able to transition to an alternate setting such as a long-term care home.
This unit was made possible through funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN).
Paul is now in a long-term care home in Courtice, Ont. He left GTU with a treatment plan for his disease while Eva and her family left with hope.
"He is doing so much better now," she says. "As a family, we are so grateful."