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My husband has early-onset Alzheimer's


Question: My husband, who is 59, has early-onset Alzheimer's. He has been in the hospital since June 2013 and has now become very aggressive, so he is kept highly drugged. I left work in 2011 to look after him full-time until I no longer could. Do you have any advice regarding dealing with a spouse?

Dr. Amy: As girls, many of us dreamed of a fairy tale wedding and a handsome prince charming. As a bride, you may have said the words, “in sickness and in health” but, with all the optimism of youth, never expected Alzheimer’s—let alone early onset Alzheimer’s. You and your husband have lost a lot. You have, perhaps, lost your husband’s companionship, help around the house, and his protection. It's normal to feel a wide range of emotions, including anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety—and guilt that you are having these feelings.

Last fall, I participated in a panel discussion hosted by Alzheimer's Disease International and Home Instead: Living with Alzheimer's: A Journey of Caring. Held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the goal of the meeting was to create awareness about the impact caring for loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia has on families. Until there's a cure, these types of dialogues are critical steps in bringing this issue to the forefront and in ensuring families coping with these diseases have the support they need.

While there, I heard two people speak about their experience caring for a spouse with early on-set Alzheimer’s. Both were terrific speakers with a lot of insight and advice. The first, Barry Peterson, has written a book, “Jan’s Story”. Click here to watch a short video in which Barry describes his journey. The second speaker was Karen Garner. Karen has created a website called, “Missing Jim” which documents life after her husband Jim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

You have had a lot of adjustments to make in your life. Now that your husband is in a care facility, are you planning to go back to work? I hope you have a good support network to help you on your journey, and at least one very good friend you can confide in. I encourage you to join a support group if you have not already, and to make it a priority to look after your own health while you navigate this next phase of the journey. 

I send you strength.


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