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Love Lives on Through Dementia

by Katie Riggs on August 24, 2016

Rob is a retiree who lives in Carmel with his wife of 50 years, Jean. Throughout their marriage, Jean was the outgoing one; laughing, telling stories, remembering every last detail of events that happened 20 years ago or two days ago. It was Jean who got Rob committed to exercising so they could stay active during retirement.

Rob began to notice troubling things about Jean. She struggled to remember the names of family members and close friends. Her normally cheerful demeanor had been replaced by moodiness and depression. She could no longer share favorite stories. Lastly, she would get agitated over the smallest things like when they ran out of cream for her coffee or she couldn’t find her workout shoes.

“I wasn’t sure what was going on,” recalled Rob, “I just knew Jean wasn’t the same. She was there physically, but mentally, she was drifting away.

A visit to the doctor confirmed Jean was in the early stages of dementia, a term that is used to describe an assortment of diseases that adversely affect brain function. In Jean’s case, the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s disease, which comprises up to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Dementia is often a progressive illness, where symptoms increase over time. Memory loss gradually worsens as the days, months and years go by.

In some dementia cases, the person may undergo a complete personality change and their judgment skills may deteriorate to a point of posing a danger to themselves and others in the household. For this reason, individuals entering the early stages of dementia need to be monitored and should not be left alone for extended periods. When Jean’s doctor said she should not be left alone for more than an hour or so at a time, Rob panicked. While he loved Jean dearly and was committed to caring for her at home, he still enjoyed socializing with friends and golfing several times a week.

“I was in our marriage for better or worse, and Jean would always be my love regardless of her mental state,” said Rob. “Fortunately, our doctor offered some invaluable advice: get support from others. You can’t care for Jean alone.”

Rob turned to the Central Indiana Council on Aging to identify resources to help with Jean’s care. Their doctor also recommended At Home Preferred for home care services. After a consultation with At Home Preferred, Rob found an in-home caregiver who could help Jean with personal care tasks, do light housework and also stay with Jean when Rob wanted to enjoy social activities.

“In the beginning, Jean’s diagnosis was a nightmare. But after I learned it was O.K. to ask for help, that I didn’t have to go it alone, living with Jean’s dementia became easier. To me, she will always be the girl I fell in love with, and having help when we need it, makes it possible,” Rod said.

If you have a loved one you believe may be in the early stages of dementia, talk to your family doctor. Should you need in-home care, contact At Home Preferred, Central Indiana’s trust provider of home care services.