Q.My husband is 19 years older than me (age 74), and four months ago I was told he had signs of early Alzheimer’s. Since that time, our lives have changed greatly. A few months ago, things were pretty normal. Now he puts things away in unusual places and can’t remember names of good friends, but he spends hours doing “word find” puzzles. Things that he always took care of are now just forgotten. He retired with 40 years service from a local TV station where he did video work, but now he can’t do that at all. Why in such a short time have things become so hard for him, even things that he has done for a long period of his life?
A.Sadly, such seemingly rapid changes in mental and behavioral ability can be one of the consequences of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The changes in the brain associated with the disease can result in what seem like random deterioration of functioning. Exactly what behaviors (or memory processes) are affected may depend on which parts of the brain are affected by the disease, and may vary from individual to individual.
A. I can understand how difficult it must be for you to experience such changes in your husband’s memory and behavior. Your husband’s neurologist or neuropsychologist may be able to answer some of your questions about his decline, and give you some idea of what else to expect.
The journey ahead may be even more difficult for you than your husband, as it can be quite stressful to take care of people with Alzheimer’s disease, on top of the grief and other emotional distress associated with losing many aspects of the person you’ve known and loved. For your own emotional well-being, I hope you’ll consider finding a support group or network for spouses and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. Your husband’s physician may be able to refer you to resources in your community. You may also find support from other spouses (and adult children), as well as lists of resources, in the Alzheimer’s Disease Community.