As the numbers afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease continue to swell, so do the legions of loved ones caring for friends and family members. And the health of those caretakers has become a focus in the Alzheimer’s community since there’s no cure on the horizon for debilitating memory loss. Even loved ones leaning on professional help still need support to endure what’s been dubbed "the long goodbye."
"I’m finally at the point where I’m beginning to put my life together after three years," says Vicki Bartholomew of Nashville, talking to the women in her monthly support group. "But my husband’s still living, and now I’m in an even more difficult situation — I’m married, but I’m a widow."
According to Nashville Public Radio, Bartholomew started this gathering informally because she needed it herself. In this sisterhood, the women each have husbands with Alzheimer’s at varying stages. Today’s topic: when is it time to move them out of the house?
They draw the shades on a small conference room and open up.
Even those no longer responsible for the day-to-day caretaking have a complicated existence. Bartholomew’s husband — a former prominent attorney — was one of the first residents at Abe’s Garden. It opened in West Nashville during 2015 and — given the demand — filled up quickly.
And now, the facility is hosting support groups for caregivers, who go through a very particular kind of pain caring for a loved one who no longer remembers who they are. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has also focused its efforts on caregivers, with an educational conference touring the country that stopped in Nashville last month.
A loved one’s body may seem to be in working order, but the mind is betraying both partners. And the person could even become violent toward you at times. Bartholomew says lifelong friends aren’t sure what to say or how to help.
You can read or listen to the full story at Nashville Public Radio.