After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis, Married Caregivers Live a Commitment to “Disease and Health”

With the rise of Alzheimer’s disease in Florida, more and more family members face the slow and painful challenge of providing care.

Here’s a look at how some Floridians in that situation are true to their commitment to “sickness and health”.

Married for 55 years

For husbands and wives across Florida, Alzheimer’s disease tests their grades. Can they do the difficult things?

For some, like Dale Finck, resident of Villages, 76, the answer is yes.

“It’s for better or for worse, and this is downright bad as I could ever imagine,” Finck said in an interview at his home. “But never for a minute did I ever doubt that I wouldn’t do everything I could do.”

Finck’s wife Kathy was diagnosed in 2018. This summer, when she quickly declined and started falling, he put her in a memory care facility.

Finck said it was his hardest time so far.

His wife is a retired nurse with a big heart and an outgoing personality. She was “the rock of the family,” Finck said. “And she … she was the love of my life, she always has been.”

The couple have been married for 55 years. They lived in Vermont and raised two daughters.

Finck said Kathy’s parents both had dementia and saw the first signs long before his wife was diagnosed. There were times she didn’t know who she was.

Finck said it was a slow transition until he suddenly realized he was making all the decisions. Gradually, he became his full-time caregiver. He had to choose his clothes. Then he had to dress her.

“Then things got where you needed to, you know, follow her as she went to the bathroom,” he said. “Then she became incontinent.”

Old Kathy shows up sometimes with a humorous joke, Finck said. “And then she out of the blue sometimes, when we’re visiting, she looks up and says, ‘I love you.’ These are the big hits right now. “

Finck reflected on the growing impact of Alzheimer’s.

“Being in a retirement community,” he said, “especially here, there is hardly a soul you talk to who doesn’t have someone in the family or a friend or someone who has been affected by this disease.”

From one ‘P’ to another ‘P’

Sarah McLeod works as a mental health provider for people living with Alzheimer’s. In an online interview, she said that one of her main jobs is helping clients learn how to do difficult things.

The toll for spouses and partners can be heavy, financially, physically, socially and emotionally. There is depression, anxiety, loneliness, grief and loss of intimacy.

The marital relationship moves below them. McLeod said a husband explains it this way: “[T]here there was a transformation from one “P” to another “P”. And what she means is that his role has changed from being a partner to being more of a parent. “

McLeod said the caregiver needs the support of someone they trust, “someone you feel safe with, someone you can tell bad things, difficult things, embarrassing and shameful things to which they won’t go anywhere.”

Support groups help, as does understanding the disease and how it progresses. One resource, the Alzheimer’s Association, has information and connections for people caring for someone with the disease.

‘A good life’ helping others

In Clermont, David Sims brings his experience as a nurse, monitoring the latest cutting-edge research and treatments, while caring for her husband Ed Patterson.

Sims said Patterson, who is 75, was diagnosed with early stage dementia with a heavy load of amyloid plaque that can progress to Alzheimer’s.

“We are doing everything we can to slow down the progression,” said Sims. “And that’s why it’s so important to have an early diagnosis.”

Patterson was part of an Alzheimer’s Association advisory group. Other residents in their gated community come to them for advice when they get a diagnosis.

They fear life won’t be good, but Patterson says he and her husband have a different goal.

“And I think this is where David and I took our own lives, focusing on what we can do to have a good life and help others,” Patterson said.

Sims said their roles have changed – now he pays the bills and drives – but, in reality, he’s doing what he’s always done, taking care of his partner.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

David Sims, left, a nurse who works at Orange County Jail, is busy supporting her husband, Ed Patterson, as he faces an early stage of dementia. Photo: Joe Byrnes, WMFE News

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