NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As Baby Boomers move into old age and live longer, one of their greatest fears and possible health risks is Alzheimer’s disease.
On 60 Minutes this Sunday, Dr. John LaPook takes a look at 10 years in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient and her caregiver husband.
In an extraordinary and unprecedented 10-year chronicle, LaPook followed Mike and Carol Daly of Staten Island as Alzheimer’s took over her brain and robbed her memory.
The Dalys wanted others to understand the devastating impact Alzheimer’s has on both patient and caregiver.
“What’s your husbands name?” LaPook asked Carol. She wasn’t able to answer.
CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez asked LaPook about the changes in the Dalys over the last ten years.
“Mike, who at the beginning said ‘I can handle anything, I can handle it all, I don’t need any help, I’m not going to put her in a nursing home.’ And he was amazing, and it was so sweet, and you would see him brushing her hair, you would see him putting makeup on her, making the beds. And he would say ‘Look, our roles are just reversed. She used to do that, now I do that,'” LaPook said. “And I said ‘It’s not what you signed up for.’ And he said ‘It is what I signed up for: It’s for better or for worse.'”
It’s what’s often overlooked. Eventually the Alzheimer’s patient has little awareness of their situation, but the impact on the caregiver is ongoing and exhausting.
“Over the years, Mike developed anxiety. He gained weight, he had hypertension, he had panic attacks, and yet he was trapped,” LaPook said. “Why was trapped? Because he didn’t want to send her to a nursing home. He didn’t even want to get outside help, because halfway through a couple of hours so he could get outside, she would get all agitated and upset and say ‘I just want Mike.’ But at that point she was demented, and he couldn’t really know what her wishes would have been had she been with it.”
That’s the take home message: We all have to have the difficult discussion with our loved ones about what our end of life wishes are, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, cancer, or simply old age deterioration.
Dr. LaPook’s complete report will air this Sunday on 60 Minutes.