Now in their 80s, Les and his wife have been together since they were 16 years old. In 2014, his wife began having cognitive impairments and, through several tests, it was determined that she had Alzheimer’s disease. Her diagnosis was caught early. Over time, as her cognitive function declined and she began forgetting how to make coffee and needing some help with grooming and dressing, Les felt he couldn’t leave her at home alone anymore, he realized he was becoming a 24-hour-a-day caregiver.
He and his wife ran into an issue Les says he has heard about from countless caregivers: independence versus safety. Les felt the need to protect his wife while she wanted to maintain her independence; these competing priorities continue to be a struggle.
Les feels cognitive assessments should be a routine part of visits of older patients to physicians, and physicians need to learn the correct questions to ask caregivers about the person for whom they are caring. Les and his wife have a fantastic support system in their community, from a local caregiver support group for those with cognitive impairments, to neighbors and congregation members who spend time with her going on walks, doing puzzles, and bringing them wonderful meals. It was through this network that Les has been able to learn about problems he may face as a caregiver and how to deal with them. By a friend’s recommendation, he found a trained companion for his wife, whom she gets along with, providing care for Julie while allowing him respite and time to run errands.