According to Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. These are startling figures, but what makes them even scarier is when you take into consideration not just the lives of the patients, but those of the caregivers.
As far as caregivers go, Alzheimer’s Association estimates that a whopping 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, totaling around 18.4 billion hours, or $232 billion. Now, the organization isn’t saying that this type of caregiving is unwarranted, as it’s usually family members of patients that become caregivers, but the fact remains that this unpaid job is one of the roughest and emotionally-taxing around.
Just ask Mike Daly. Back in 2008, his wife, Carol, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At that time, his wife of over four decades was experiencing memory loss, but she was still active, able to hold a conversation, and aware of her ailment.
It was that year that the couple decided to participate in a report for 60 Minutes, one conducted by the television show’s resident medical advisor, Dr. John LaPook. Both Mike and Carol agreed to let cameras check in on them periodically for the next 10 years in order to educate the public on the highly-destructive nature of the illness.
In the first interview, Carol was able to speak on her life and the way in which the disease was affecting it, but by the time 2011 rolled around, she could not remember her age. The then-67-year-old guessed that she was 80.
Predictably, things for both Carol and Mike only got worse as time went on. By 2014, Carol could not remember that she had a husband, even though it was hers who had been taking care of her full-time since her diagnosis.
It was around this time that Dr. LaPook began to voice his concern for Carol’s caregiver husband. Mike had been in and out of the hospital, being treated for severe panic attacks. But, when the Doctor mentioned to Mike that he, as a husband, didn’t sign up to be a caregiver, Mike dissented.
“…it’s for better or for worse. So I did sign up for it in the beginning,” he said.
By their last check-in in 2017, Mike described Carol as being a “vegetable.” She was no longer able to speak or take care of herself. Dr. LaPook used this as a teachable moment for his viewers.
“When Carol was still Carol, that would have been the best time to discuss the kind of caregiving decisions Mike Daly eventually had to face alone. Mike hopes that sharing such intimate details of their lives will help others be better prepared than they were,” Dr. Jonathan LaPook asserted.
Wow. Just, wow. This tale sure is one that strikes a chord with most, but if you have ever been touched by Alzheimer’s, we’re willing to bet this especially resonates with you.
To meet Carol and Mike Daly, and to see a sneak peek of the 10-year Alzheimer’s progression, be sure to watch the video below.
Let’s keep this conversation going! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this impactful story. Are you someone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s? If so, are you willing to share your story? Do you have any advice for long-term caregivers?