Wife discusses dealing with husband's Alzheimer's

September 28, 2011 4:51:28 PM PDT
Alzheimer's has been in the news lately, from blood tests to diagnose it earlier, to research on drugs that might delay it. Recently, there has been publicity of a different kind: The 700 Club's Pat Robertson said it was OK to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's. That angered families who agree that care giving is hard.

When Betsy and Don Nolan married more than 50 years ago, she didn't know that Alzheimer's ran in her husband's family. They watched his father and brother die with it. Now he has Alzheimer's too.

"Unfortunately, Don is living his worst nightmare," Betsy Nolan said. "He knew what a diagnosis with Alzheimer's meant, he knew it was fatal."

And that made him worry about Betsy Nolan.

"His concern always was what was gonna happen to me," she said.

She's taken care of Don Nolan now for six years.

"Every once in awhile we see the person that he was and everybody enjoys that," she said.

When she heard Robertson say divorce when a spouse has Alzheimer's is an option, it was discouraging to her.

"Why on Earth would I leave him now when he needs me the most?" she said.

But with her children out of town, she finally had to ask for help.

"There's no shame asking for help, don't do this alone because it will take a toll on you," said Andy De La Cruz with Assisting Hands Home Care.

Now, the caregiver allows her time to get emotional support from friends.

"Lots of friends I know are praying for me, and I think all of those things are very important," Betsy Nolan said.

Her advice is to stay healthy and try to avoid the depression can that can quickly overwhelm you.

"It has been very difficult, Alzheimer's is, as Laura Bush said, the long sadness," she said.

Betsy Nolan says its her love for Don that helps her deal with the sadness.

In the past two weeks, one study found people with Type 2 diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's. Another small study at the University of Washington found a squirt of insulin in the nose may hold early Alzheimer's a bay. Scientists say more research on the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's is needed.

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