CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis not only affects the patient but the family, especially the person taking over as caregiver.
It’s a new world full of new experiences.
Paula’s diagnosis came in January 2014. She was 62.
Her wife, Cheryl, said she saw signs before the diagnosis.
“In May 2013, she came to me and had a knife in one hand and an onion in the other, and she said ‘how do you cut an onion,'” Cheryl said.
They’ve been together for 36 years. For the past six, they’ve been living with Paula’s diagnosis and said a lot has changed.
“It’s ironic to me that many of my friends tell me what a good caregiver I am and what a good mother I would have been,” Cheryl said, describing her role as a gradual transition from wife to mother.
“Well, it’s not exactly what I was wishing for at 60, but this is what you sign up for. You know, it’s the whole ’till death due us part and in sickness and in health.’ This is part of it.”
She said she does everything for Paula.
“I brush her teeth, I put her dentures in, I take them out, I trim her toenails, her fingernails, shower her…you know, everything.”
For Cheryl, it’s a labor of love, and like many caregivers, she makes sure she finds time to take care of herself — like playing the piano.
“Paula sleeps a great deal more than I do, so I usually have a couple of hours at night and a couple of hours in the morning where shes still asleep,” she said, explaining that’s when she plays.
Cheryl said she also attends support groups through the Alzheimer’s Association and has even become a community educator and support group facilitator herself.
And, above all else, she finds time for love.
“Even though Paula doesn’t speak a lot and isn’t very conversational, she’s still my companion.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers 90 support groups around the state. It also has a hotline that’s always available. The number is (800) 272-3900.
More information about groups and the disease can be found online.