If you have a chance to catch the special on PBS called Fading Away – Alzheimer’s, it’s worth the watch. It follows families who are dealing with the disease and how it affects their lives going through the stages of this devastating dementia. Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
There is so much sadness with the disease. The husband of one patient said the hardest thing was losing the love of his life, even though she’s right there with him. He was still trying to take care of her alone at home, but he said he just didn’t know how long he could endure the heartbreak. Their grown children helped at times, but the physical toll was nothing compared to his mental anguish.
The second couple was a wife taking care of her husband with Alzheimer’s. They had a lovely home and the wife was very attentive to her ailing husband. She didn’t have a lot of choice. If she wasn’t right there with him, he was looking for her. She needed a little time to go outside and sit on the porch swing just to get a break. A little time was all she got. Within a minute he was right there with her.
Coping with Caretaker Stress
What occurred to me was these couples should have been enjoying their retirement, possibly traveling and enjoying the freedom that comes after retirement. Instead they were somewhat housebound — tethered to just getting through the day. The caretaking spouses needed as much support as the patients.
The experts on the program stressed that getting out for both the patient and the caregiver was crucial during this illness. They stated that caregivers often pass away due to stress before the one that has the disease! Getting out of the house just to go to a senior center or a support group can help both the patient and the caregiver. They need to know they are not alone in this battle. Connecting with others going through similar circumstances also gives them the opportunity to find out the services and resources available.
A single woman was also featured. She is the author of numerous cookbooks. She said she realized that she had to tackle this illness herself. She is taking medications that have helped slow down the disease and she is vigilant about eating well and getting plenty of exercise. The experts say that heart disease and dementia are often related. Staying physically active can reduce the chances of getting dementia.
I’m very thankful to PBS and the University of California – Davis for producing this film. We do have people working for a cure. The world awaits their success.