Who We Are: A Shining Light

Capitol Ridge resident giving back
in memory of her beloved husband

Helen Cain did not choose to become so well-versed in the intricacies of Alzheimer’s disease, but she does choose to be a shining light for those trapped in what can be a dark reality.

That light is celebrated each year on the summer solstice, June 20. It is the longest day of the calendar year and is celebrated universally by the Alzheimer’s Association as a day for people to fight the darkness of the disease through a fundraising activity of their choice.

Helen’s story is shared by countless other loved ones of people affected by Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease where symptoms of dementia worsen over time. In its early stages, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, memory loss may be mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals may lose their ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Decorated picture of older coupleHelen and her beloved husband, Jimmy, moved into Capitol Ridge at Providence six years ago. Helen recalls with a gentle smile that Jimmy drove them there. They had been together for 60 years at that point. The U.S. Navy brought Jimmy, a native of Mississippi, to Newport. Helen and a friend went to a Navy dance. She danced with a young sailor who seemed nice, she thought. Weeks later, Helen told a friend to “tell that Jimmy Cain I said hello.”

That got his attention. He started to visit Helen regularly. They married in 1951 at St. Patrick’s Church, settling in Providence. Helen and Jimmy raised six children. He joined the Providence Police Department and served the public for 35 years, all the while doting on Helen, his six children, and anyone else who crossed his path and needed something.

“He was a giving man,” says Helen. “He would do things for our neighbors.”

So, it made sense when the time came to sell their house, that Helen and Jimmy would move nearby to Capitol Ridge. The couple settled in nicely. But things took an abrupt turn.

“It changes a person overnight,” says Helen. “Jimmy was forgetting me and our children. And he was always such a family man.”

Just a short time after they moved into their apartment, Jimmy was moved to the Mind and Memory Care neighborhood at Capitol Ridge. Helen and family members visited every day. They began to understand just how insidious a disease Alzheimer’s can be. In a matter of weeks, Jimmy required oxygen. Soon, the disease took his life.

Older woman and senior woman holding handsAt 90, Helen is determined to deliver Alzheimer’s a counterpunch, and she is doing so with an approach rooted in kindness and inspired by Jimmy. Jimmy may be gone, but Helen continues her regular visits to the Mind and Memory Care neighborhood. There, Helen finds former neighbors from her floor, or new friends. With a kind smile, smooth voice, and gentle manner, Helen’s visits elicit bright smiles and warmth.

“I sit with them,” says Helen. “If they sing, I sing with them. I bring treats. We just talk. I ask about their friends and family. They’re happy.”

Helen does this for the residents, but also for Jimmy. It brings her closer to him. And she craves those memories. The family vacations. Jimmy fixing things around the house.

Jimmy, she says, was always thinking of others. She recalls a pair of pear trees on their lawn. He told the kids across the street to come and pick from them whenever they wanted. The kids loved those trees. When he and Helen decided to sell that house, Jimmy went and planted a pear tree in that neighbors’ yard.

“I’ve got to do something for other people because people were so good to Jimmy when he was sick,” she says. “I needed to do something in Jimmy’s memory, because that’s what he did. He was always giving.”

After Jimmy died, Helen wondered if it made sense for her to stay at Capitol Ridge. Her children told her to give it a try. She has found a sense of comfort and purpose. The staff, she says, have been wonderful. So, she has stayed, determined to continue Jimmy’s spirit by reaching out to others. It is what he would have done.

Capitol Ridge at Providence