Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Alzheimer's Caregiver Needs Support, Not Judgment

DEAR HARRIETTE: An acquaintance of mine is taking care of his wife who has early onset Alzheimer's disease. She has been deteriorating fast and now needs round-the-clock care. It is so sad to see what has become of this once-vibrant woman, and her husband has seemed terribly stressed out whenever I have run into him or read his social media posts.

I randomly saw him a couple of months ago, and he introduced me to a woman whom he called his girlfriend. He told me that he is totally committed to caring for his wife, but, for all intents and purposes, she is gone. She is lost in her mind and doesn’t know him. I listened to what he said and was gracious to his girlfriend. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s really none of my business, but there he was with this woman. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through this. I don’t want to judge him. How should I react? -- Lost to Alzheimer’s, Boston

DEAR LOST TO ALZHEIMER’S: I spoke to a woman who is a caregiver for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. She explained that the toll that it takes for caregivers is close to unbearable. Partners of victims stricken with this disease often lose their connections to their loved ones, and many succumb to poor health long before the Alzheimer’s patient dies. Joko Gilbert, co-author with David Davis of "Support the Caregiver: 9 Strategies for Turning the Stress of Alzheimer’s Caregiving Into Transformational Growth," suggests that you not judge but instead be supportive. The strategies included in this book provide mindful ways of staying connected to spirit and remembering love and kindness through the enormous challenges that caregivers face each day.

To your specific question about how to react to your acquaintance, just offer loving compassion. Clearly, he needs this woman in his life at this time.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband has had a knee injury for a couple of months, and I have been begging him to go to the doctor. He refuses, taking vitamins and exercising instead. I get his interest in holistic options, but his leg is swollen and painful. I have looked up his symptoms and I am worried that he could have a blood clot or worse. When I share my worries, he brushes me off. About two months ago, a friend of ours dropped dead from an undiagnosed blood clot in his leg. I told my husband about that, and still he won’t go. I am so worried that I am going to lose him because of his stubbornness. Can you think of anything to say to him that might get him to make a doctor’s visit? -- Leg Pain, Manhattan, New York

DEAR LEG PAIN: Research and find a doctor who can see your husband. Make an appointment and take him yourself. If you have to dupe him to get there, tell him you have an emergency that you need his help managing. Or you can plead with him, express your concern for his life and tell him that if he loves you, he will indulge you this one time and see a doctor to find out what’s going on. Western medicine is good at diagnosis. Depending on what you learn, you can determine the next steps.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)