Loving and living with someone struggling with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease affects most Canadians, whether it is through a personal diagnosis or that of a loved one. It is a disease that starts gradually and inevitably worsens over time. Alzheimer’s undoubtedly changes the nature of relationships and of lifestyles, of the diagnosed person, as well as that of their friends and family. More and more awareness is being raised about this disease, fundraisers are being held and organizations are providing support as Alzheimer’s research is ongoing and new facts are discovered often.
Karen Martin, a resident of Russell Township, has also been learning new things everyday about the disease, since her husband, Robert, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s one year ago at the age of 57. “The beginning is a very gradual loss of memory and you’re sort of wondering if there is something wrong with them or is it just forgetfulness?” said Karen Martin. “Then it gets worse and worse and you realize, ‘ Yes, there is something wrong’ and you have to take them to get tested.” Martin started to notice the changes in her husband’s memory and upon receiving the diagnosis a year ago, he is still undergoing testing to figure out exactly what type of Alzheimer’s he has.
At 58 years old, at the insistence of his neurologist, Robert was forced to stop working due to the disease. “He couldn’t work anymore and that was very, very difficult because he’s always worked all his life and he’s always worked long hours all his life… To be told now ‘ You can’t work,’ was a really difficult thing for him to accept,” said Martin. The married couple of 40 years was also forced to sell the house they have lived in for 30 years – a house that Robert built himself – because the maintenance would become impossible to keep up with after the diagnosis. The two have now moved to a campground, where Robert has found some work he can do around the grounds, picking up the recycling and other simple tasks that keep him occupied. “His morale is pretty good right now because of the work. They need to be kept busy,” said Martin. “With this, he can work as he pleases, when he is having a good day, and it’s not very taxing and mind demanding.”
According to Martin, her husband’s mindset changes on a daily basis, in which half the time he is himself, and the other half the disease is in the driver’s seat. Robert’s Alzheimer’s is focused primarily in the frontal lobe, which leads to aggression and other inappropriate things in public.
“He doesn’t realize what he’s doing is wrong,” she said. “If I argue with him, it just aggravates the situation. For me that’s really hard, because I’m very strong and vocal myself and I have to really pull myself back.” Martin acknowledges the support she has received from Alzheimer’s Society of Cornwall and District, most notably from the family’s case worker, Jeanne Poirier, who has done house visits to speak to Martin and her three children. Martin also attends monthly Alzheimer’s Support Meetings to cope with the lifestyle changes that come with a loved one being diagnosed.
Once Robert was diagnosed, it took the family all year to get him in to see a neurologist and they are now waiting to complete tests at the Memory Disorder Clinic at the Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital in Ottawa. According to Martin, her husband is scheduled to run tests this week, in which they can expect to wait until early next year for the results.
“That’s the hardest part, waiting and waiting and waiting,” said Martin. “We need more resources and doctors for Alzheimer’s so things can progress quicker for these people, especially when it’s early onset, because they’re young and can maybe live a more productive life for a little while longer.”
The family will be participating in this year’s Walk for Alzheimer’s organized by the Alzheimer’s Society of Cornwall and District
La maladie d’Alzheimer affecte la plupart des Canadiens, que ce soit par un diagnostic personnel ou celui d’un relatif. C’est une maladie qui commence graduellement et se détériore inévitablement avec le temps. La maladie d’Alzheimer change...