Hospice Care Helps A 17 Year Battle With Alzheimer’s
In his younger years, John Brooks was handiest husband on the block. When he met his wife, Irene, he was a Captain with the Army Corps of Engineers. He made his living as an electrical engineer, and he was always very adept at fix-it projects around their home in Silver Spring, Md.
Suddenly, near his 70th birthday, the parts and pieces of machines and electronic devices became unfamiliar to him. He began to struggle with turning on the television, couldn’t operate a computer and started getting lost on trips to the nearby grocery store.
Thus began a 17 year-long tribulation that was the darkest and most painful the Brooks family had ever undergone. John, their beloved husband and father, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Though his mental health deteriorated rapidly, his physical condition was in prime condition for almost two decades. The prolonged pain of watching the once brilliant engineer fade from the disease was more than the family could bear at times.
“He was in perfect health, he would still eat, and was just very physically healthy,” said Irene, his wife. “My daughter and I took care of him, but he didn’t have the slightest clue as to who we were.”
It eventually got so bad that Irene could no longer take him to the bathroom or pick him up off the floor when he fell. She placed him in an assisted living facility, and when he deteriorated more, the nearby hospital.
Wracked with bedsores, ulcers and arthritis, John’s body began to shut down. The hospital staff was unable to medicate him or treat his wounds, so he became eligible for a bed at Montgomery Hospice’s Casey House , a hospice center in Montgomery County.
“He was not conscious of much that was going on around him other than the pain,” Irene said.
Not wanting to leave John alone in his final days, Irene was glad to find there was no limit on visiting hours in the hospice center. However, she realized she was able to go home and take a shower or grab a snack without worrying that he was being given adequate care-something she had not been able to do at the hospital.
“He relaxed so much; you could just see it on his face,” said Irene. “He couldn’t talk about how he felt, but were very gentle and they kept him so clean and comfortable.”
John died free of pain, and full of peace. His family members were grateful for the hospice staff’s efforts, but were also confused as to why they were not provided with more information about it.
“I just wish there was more talk about it,” Irene said. “A friend had said that I wasn’t supposed to talk about hospice, because it wasn’t publicized very much.”
The mother of three, who was born in the U.K., said her characteristically English, stoic nature helped her through the tough times, but life would have been much simpler with the help of Montgomery Hospice.
“When I was at home, it was practically impossible to get anything done. If I left his side, I would be very nervous,” said Irene. “Sometimes I would sit and wonder how I was going to get through this. I just wish I would have known earlier about hospice.”