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Alzheimer's and a Husband's Love for his Wife

A Story as told by an anonymous doctor's office nurse.

Old Couple 1.

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It was a busy morning at the clinic, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80's arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.

The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health.

 

Old Couple 2.

 

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in three years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?” He smiled as he patted my hand and said:

She doesn't know me,

 but I still know who she is."

I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought -

"That is the kind of love I want in my life."

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Old Couple 3.

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 (Original Author unknown – Named, edited and illustrated by Stan Berg - December 2010)

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Editorial Comments: I do not know if this is a true story or just a poignant tale of fiction revolving about the horrible disease Alzheimer’s. However, I can testify to what is depicted here by way of an "elderly gentleman" with an Alzheimer’s wife, has a basis in facts many times over. During the almost 12 years that my wife June K. Berg battled this dread disease, I have had the occasion to spend many hours of time in Alzheimer’s nursing home facilities. I have personally witnessed a number of similar real life dramas that revolved about the efforts of husbands’ to care for, love and protect one of the most precious parts of their life – their wife of many years. One of my best friends, Dr. Don Fox is a perfect fit for the “elderly gentleman” in this story…Don's wife Gloria just passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s of many years. Gloria was one of June’s friends and also a member of our Redeemer Lutheran Church.

Situations of this type are really very common and normal. Most husbands do not stop loving their wives or stop spending time with them because they no longer remember or know them simply because of the effects of Alzheimer's. Most husbands would be insulted to suggest such a thing! I did not spend less time with my wife June when she no longer knew who I was. The reverse would have been more correct.

During the last two years when June rarely even opened her eyes, I would spend 8 hour days with her simply holding her hand and occasionally assuring her of my love for her and that I would always care for her. Don and I would discuss how we felt our love for our wives actually increased as Alzheimer's became more intense and controlling in the life or our wive's.

It should be kept in mind that in the majority of Alzheimer’s cases, it is the elderly that is most often impacted by this disease. The married couple struggling with the disease will in most cases be an elderly husband and wife. These are couples who have spent most of a lifetime together. For them, the husband and wife relationship is a very precious one. These are not cases of a “here today and gone tomorrow” type of love so often seen among present day younger generations.

Most of such husbands love their wives with a love that could only be called a "sacrificial" love...or a love "without reward".

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"Caregiving is an inadequate term...it's really LOVE­‐giving. You essentially need to be willing to give unconditional love to the person that's suffering from Alzheimer's." - Mark Shriver

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Reader's Comments

Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc., Mount Pearl, Newfoundland - (17 July 2012):  "Love can be such a beautiful thing, especially when it triumphs through the Alzheimer journey. All the best to you, and thank you for sharing...Emily White, Events Coordinator. "

Julie Yates - Warrington, United Kingdom - (17 July 2012): How lovely is that? It reduced me to tears! "

Vicky Greaves - St. Helens, Staffordshire, United Kingdom - (26 November 2012): "The story  reminds me  of my nan and grandad,  but it was my grandad who had it first, nan in late stage but i look after her."

Vicki Cadogan  - Limerick, Ireland - (26 November 2012): "Lovely story, reminds me of my dad."

Dana M. Becraft  - Sarasota, Florida -(16 September 2013): "This reminds me of my own Father. I'm so proud of him for all he's done for my Mom these past 12 yrs. Mom can no longer talk but she still lights up every time she see's Dad."

Marsha McKneely Ault  - Nacagdoches, Texas - (16 september 2013): "Precious ...Stanton O. Berg."

Donald Hiatt  - Clovis, Califrornia  - (16 September 2013): "This is very touching. Thank you for posting it...Don."

Lauretta Crepin  - Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia - (17 September 2013): "My parents had neighbours like this.  She was in a nursing home for about 10 years and he would go over every day; get her up, dress her, do her makeup and hair, then spend the day - also feeding her, as she had lost the use of her hands.  He would also help feed some of the other people there.  But she was the love of his life and they were also so devoted.  They had no children and sadly when she died, he followed not long after. Such a great love and devotion seems so rare these days."

 

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Note: For greater detail on June's life with Alzheimer's and her struggle with the disease of almost 12 years, please click on the below link for the article on:

"June K. Berg's Journey into Alzheimer's" 

 

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June's Passing

June 1994

June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - or Click on:

 

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam"