November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. We want to honor the 15 million family and friends currently providing care for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, including the nearly 590,000 Alzheimer’s caregivers right here in Illinois. In this article, we feature Verda Gochee, who is a caregiver for her husband who was recently diagnosed with the disease.
“I am a caregiver for my 59-year-old husband, Darren, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease two years ago. I retired from my office job at that time because the neuropsychologist that diagnosed his condition felt he needed 24/7 care. The closest “adult day care” facility to our house was 15 miles away, and in the opposite direction of my job. I didn’t feel leaving him home alone as viable as we were getting scam phone calls from the “IRS” on a regular basis. I could not be sure he would not give our credit card or bank information to a scammer or let a “bad” person into our house. I had originally planned to work until at least age 70, but ended up retiring at 65.
We live with our 25-year-old son in rural DeKalb County in a century-old farmhouse that my husband’s family has owned for more than 100 years. Our son is the 6th generation to live in that house. We added a first-floor bedroom, bathroom with a shower, laundry and attached garage with an inside ramp to the house last year with the hopes of keeping my husband at home, where he would like to stay as long as possible.
Darren is usually awake by 2 a.m. every day and wanting to see if the newspaper had been delivered yet. He still looks at the paper but does not really comprehend as much of the information as he used to. He is able to dress and shower by himself but, I can see him getting more anxious about these activities. His day revolves around getting the newspaper, which is delivered at about 4:00 a.m. and the mail, which is delivered about 2:00 p.m. He has lost most of his concept of time, so he is frequently asking if it is time to get the newspaper or the mail.
We have an elderly dog that we frequently take for walks, sometimes both of us and sometimes by ourselves. We generally shop for groceries once a week and sometimes just go for a drive. We play “Sequence” most evenings. Sequence is a board game played with two decks of playing cards. He usually matches the correct number and color, black or red, but often mixes up the suits, club for spade or heart for diamond. Darren does fairly well when playing Mexican Train dominos with a small group of family. The Mexican Train dominos not only have spots but the spots are color coded to make it easier to match the number. We play dominos with all train lines open. I try to do Suduko and Celebrity Decipher from the newspaper daily. I read magazines but have found I fall asleep too easily to read novels anymore.
Currently, I am managing the caregiving responsibilities without hired help. When help becomes necessary, I’m afraid it is going to be difficult to keep paid help, especially in the wintertime because of our rural location. The probability of being able to keep him at home through the course of this disease now seems very slim. It will cost several thousand dollars a month to place him in a long-term care facility plus maintain our home. Our savings, which seemed like an adequate nest egg a few years ago, now seems to be waving goodbye as it will disappear quickly when Darren has to be placed in a care facility.”