En español | When my wife, Ann, 71, was diagnosed in 2011 with Alzheimer's disease, we charted a course about how we were going to handle things.
Many couples just don't talk about it. It's the elephant in the room. But we read everything we could about dementia and memory loss.
Holding hands, we stared at the computer, and it was through AARP's website that I found a wealth of resources like the Alzheimer's Association and the local Area Agency on Aging. Thanks to AARP, I learned about programs and nearby resources I didn't know were out there.
As a caregiver advocate, I always direct others to AARP, where they, too, can find great resources.
Early on, I started going to caregiver support groups, which were often 12 women and maybe one other guy. Women usually have a group of friends who provide emotional support. Most men have very little, if any. It can be lonely.
You are tossed into a maelstrom of responsibility. I had to learn to use the washing machine and apply her makeup. I help her get dressed.
We resolved that Alzheimer's was not going to steal our joy. It really tried, and almost beat me several times. The grinding heartbreak of seeing a spouse slowly fail is beyond comprehension.
One thing that helps is keeping Ann as social as possible. We go out and do things together. We belong to a meetup movie and social group. I take Ann over to a neighborhood restaurant where she has breakfast with the women's flying club that she's been a member of for almost 20 years. The ladies love to see her, and as best as they can, include her in the conversation.
People still want to participate in activities and know they are valued as human beings.
There are rewards. If I'm playing piano for her, which I do every day, the look on her face is just absolutely amazing.
The time she has left will be a joy for all.
— As told to Sarah Hollander
Prepare to Care
This year, AARP Ohio is hosting dozens of Prepare to Care talks around the state. The goal: Help people plan for caregiving before a crisis hits. Volunteers hope to give 75 presentations in 2019.