Alzheimer’s impacts patients, caregivers

DUBUQUE – Mike Reilly just turned 75, but he doesn’t remember.

“How old are we,” his wife, Nancy, asks. “I don’t know,” he replies.

Reilly’s wife Nancy was the first person to notice early signs of Alzheimer’s in her husband.

She said, “He would forget where his billfold was, he would forget where his keys were.”

Those early signs then turned into more noticeable lifestyle changes

“His activity level changed. He loved golf, and he didn’t want to play golf anymore. He loved social activity, and he slowly didn’t want to go anywhere,” Nancy said.

Nancy took care of her husband by herself up until almost one year ago when it started to become too much to do on her own.

“It was honestly just wearing me down,” she said. “It was it was tough, so and then I would keep telling myself no I can do, I can do this, but I finally just couldn’t anymore.”

The Reilly’s have three sons. Steve Reilly lives closest to Dubuque, so he comes to visit his mom as much as possible. He says he knows how much it took out of his mom to care for his dad all of those years.

He said, “I don’t know how mom did it as long as she did it and we kept, the key was that we wanted her to communicate with us as to when it was getting to the point where something needed to be done.”

In the end, Nancy did let her sons know when she thought it was time to put her husband into a nursing home.

“You can slowly see their life just kind of slowing down and you have to come to grips with what’s coming,” she said.

At the Alzheimer’s Association, Alex Barton says she often sees families or caregivers, like Nancy, pushing themselves to care for their loved ones, while forgetting about themselves.

Barton said, “They’re health is impacted maybe because they’re not taking care of their health themselves, seeing the doctor, that type of thing, and the stress and the burden that is placed on a caregiver when they’re having a job that is day in and day out.”

With her husband in the nursing home, Nancy is able to get a break at home, but she still considers herself a caregiver.

“Even though he’s in a facility does not you’re not a caregiver, because you still go up and take care.”

To learn more about Alzheimer’s, go to http://www.alz.org/.

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