Alzheimer’s Caregivers: Families Struggle with Disease
As Memories Fade, Families Cope with Lost Income and Emotional Toll
In every hard journey through the shadowlands of Alzheimer’s, there is always something else that abides. Something even the shadows cannot darken.
There is life, beauty and abiding love. You can see it in a painting, a needlepoint angel, or a dance. And you can see it around the breakfast table at the Jones family home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Mornings at the Jones house are a hectic affair. Daughter Natalie has to get to second grade, wife Laura has to get to work. And husband Jay, just 53 years old, has to live with Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed seven years ago.
“Who would ever expect that a 46-year-old man would have Alzheimer’s? It was just completely shocking,” said Laura Jones.
Jay Jones is one of 500,000 Americans living with early-onset Alzheimer’s, cases in which the disease strikes before the age of 65. There are still plenty of bright moments for the Joneses, but there are also flashes of the isolation to come.
“For me, it’s like seeing my husband, someone that I love, he’s in quicksand, and I can see the fear in his eyes,” said Laura. “I can’t reach him. I can’t get there. I see him slip a little further, and I can’t get to him.”
Besides the emotional toll, the disease has brought real financial hardship. After Jay lost his job, Natalie, 7, had to move to a new school. Laura holds down a part-time job as a training consultant for an aviation software company, though she makes just a fifth of her husband’s old salary. Still, she refuses to dwell on the future.
“All it does is make me weak, and I can’t afford to be weak at any moment in the day,” she said. “I don’t live in fear. It’s a waste of time.”