Looking After An Alzheimer's Patient

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

June 27, 2006

A new test may help scientists unlock the answers to Alzheimer's Disease and possibly lead the way to an earlier diagnosis and even treatment. But until there is a cure, the patient's caregivers are taking it one day at a time.

For an Alzheimer's patients, everyday is a new day, but for the family member or caregiver looking after the patient it's just another hard day dealing with a heavy emotional burden as they cope with the thought of losing a loved one.

When Peggy Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 6 years ago she was only showing signs of the early stages.

"I began to notice that she was forgetful. She would go to the grocery store and spend literally hours in the grocery store going up and down the aisles unable to make up her mind about what to buy," said Ward Campbell.

Now 71-years-old, Peggy is deep into the disease of memory loss. Her husband Ward is her full-time caregiver at their home. It is a job, he said, that is often lonely.

"It is hard for the caretaker or the caregiver not to be depressed and what's effecting me more now is her lack of ability to have any conversation," said Ward Campbell.

Her husband has to do just about everything for her. Ward does the cooking, cleaning and even dresses her. Ward said since she was diagnosed he has had to do twice as much work taking care of her.

"So she stays with me most of the time and wanders around the house and picks up things and puts them down someplace else. I make the bed, she un-does the bed. I neaten up the house, she messes it up," said Ward Campbell.

The only time Ward gets a break is when he brings Peggy to the Jefferson Area Board of Aging's adult daycare Monday through Friday, which she seems to enjoy.

Right now there is no cure for Alzheimer's, but Peggy has tried medical therapy. It is supposed to prolong the beginning stages of the disease, which could give her more time with her family and new found friends.

The results of the new Alzheimer's test could take months if not years to complete but Ward is hopeful. Some patients can live with the disease for up to 20 years.

Half of all Americans who are 85-years-old or older may have Alzheimer's disease. Some experts compare the chance of getting the disease to flipping a coin.

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