A Personal Letter
My name is Nancy Bach, and I am going to share my story with you and hope to tell you how important the Alzheimer’s Association has been to me. My husband Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1999. He was 60 years old. The neurologist who diagnosed him gave me all the awful details about the progression of this disease in about five minutes. When I left his office, I was devastated and promised myself not to learn anything more about the disease. We would just take it one day at a time.
My husband was getting good care, but I was not facing the illness. The challenges of taking care of him were increasing, and his day-to-day functioning was changing. For the first time in my life, I was depressed because our world was turned upside down. At this stage of the disease, Bill was heating Kleenex in the microwave, was obsessed with emptying trash cans, and emptied trash into the toilet and flooded the bathroom. He went to bed at seven, got up at 8:30 the same evening, dressed and shaved, and was ready to begin the day. He would get angry and upset over loud noises and children crying. He forgot how to write his name, make a sandwich, and use a key. He was frustrated with himself and even more frustrated with me. His language and communication skills were being lost. I was depressed and cried a lot because we were together 24/7, and he was with me wherever I went.
One particular day, I was feeling very much alone, and the tears just wouldn’t stop. I had serious concerns about taking care of Bill, thinking about what the future held for both of us. I remember sitting across from Bill; he was totally unaware that I was crying. I was feeling even more miserable because my husband had become the last person in the world I could talk to. I went into another room trying to compose myself, but I couldn’t. I picked up the phone and dialed information to get the number of the Alzheimer’s Association.
At the Alzheimer’s Association, a soft, calm voice answered and listened as I blurted out all my fears and concerns, sobbing that “I didn’t know what to do anymore”. Whatever else I said doesn’t matter, because she said, “I understand”. She calmly told me she would mail out a packet of information that would help me and my husband. That information would be the beginning of my education about Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association became the link that connected me to various services that helped me and my family through very trying times.
I would not have known that we needed to legally plan for the future, and that I needed to have a much greater understanding of our finances. Such information is critical because of the complexity and expense of taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. As Bill’s disease progressed, his behavior became difficult and extreme. He was going to a senior daycare two days a week, and his doctor suggested I do everything possible to increase it to five. It was then that I became part of the respite care program. I used the hours given to us by the Association to reduce the very expensive monthly daycare bill. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated every one of those hours.
One day, Bill wandered away from a friend’s house, and it was at this point that I was relieved to have Bill registered in the safe return program and to have a caregiver’s checklist with step-by-step instructions on what to do if someone is missing. A letter that the Alzheimer’s Association sent also made me aware of the Grace Kirkland Fund. I applied; I was eligible, and I received the benefit of this wonderful fund.