My wife Joan and I will mark our sixtieth wedding anniversary in August of 2017. Five years ago Joan had been diagnosed as having dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Actually I had noticed memory related changes as early as twelve years ago. One of the first things I can remember with regards to this had been her asking what she should wear for an outer garment when going outdoors, something she had never questioned before. Eventually it became evident that Joan’s memory lose had become a serious problem. For example, when she went in for an annual checkup her blood pressure was off the chart. She could no longer manage her medication schedule. Soon after that Joan was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s. As expected, the disease continues to progress and seems to be accelerating recently.
It is my hope that I can, with outside assistance, keep Joan in our home as long as needed. That hope will depend on my own health, which at 89 years is still good. I am trying to get help for four hours each day and finding it difficult to get dependable help on a regular basis. Somedays I have help, some days I don’t. As a result I am for all intents and purposes fully responsible for Joan’s care, which now includes help with most of her personal needs. I have moved a single bed into Joan’s bedroom so I am there if needed at night. Whenever I go somewhere, with minor exceptions, Joan goes with me. Joan has few diversions so going someplace almost every afternoon is something she enjoys. We seldom eat out but we go to a coffee shop most days, go to the YMCA a couple of days a week, go grocery shopping often so we are doing things together every day.
Recently I have become aware that, despite all of our interaction and being married nearly sixty years, Joan does not know who I am or what our relationship is. I have explained to her that I am her husband and she is my wife many times. She will not remember my explanation even a few moments after I tell her this. Yesterday I showed Joan our wedding album. She didn’t know any of the people in the album pictures, including herself.
I have known a number of people who have had Alzheimer’s but didn’t appreciate how devastating it is until becoming closely associated with it as I am now. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured and will always result in death. For the benefit of future generations, let us hope we find a cure for this disease soon.