Staying out of trouble with Alzheimer’s

I have a close friend who was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 57. Each Saturday morning he begins a 24 hour shift of trying to stay out of trouble while his wife works a ’round the clock shift at her job. Since he is still in the early to moderate stage of the disease she is able to leave him for periods of time without too much worry. Also, finances dictate that she needs to keep her job as a long as possible as they are now down to one income.

For my friend, however, those 24 hours can feel like a month. He doesn’t go anywhere, fearing something bad might happen. Instead he performs simple chores around the house, things that won’t get him into too much mischief. His jobs include running the sweeper, making the bed, etc.

By 10 a.m. he puts on the news, not really to watch it, but just to go through the motions. He used to love watching college football Saturday afternoons, but sadly, that activity has just become one more thing he has crossed off his “don’t bother” list.

By noon feelings of isolation and boredom begin to surround him. He has recently told me that these feelings have intensified during the past winter months. His house feels more closed up with the windows and doors always shut trying to keep it warm. Naturally, he can’t help but finally start searching for something to do.

Never intentionally meaning to do anything wrong, it seems that the laws of physics are stacked against him.

For instance, there’s a faucet in his garage that has a small leak. It has a magnetic pull calling him, almost demanding that he come to fix it. He fights the urge to the point where he has hung a large sign above it saying: “Don’t even think about it!”

When a person has this disease they often live in constant fear of doing something wrong. The average person thinks that staying out of trouble is an easy task, but for my friend it’s nearly impossible. I’m not talking about anything drastic (although you never know). It usually comes down to simple projects spiraling out of control.

He believes that, for caregivers, it may be like them having a loyal pet that’s so well behaved that they don’t worry about them doing anything out of line. Then the day comes when they are left at home alone for an unusually long period of time; upon arriving home it is discovered that possibly this “pet” is not as trustworthy as originally thought! There are reams of toilet paper spread from one end of the house to the other.

According to him, his long Saturdays aren’t good for him, but then Sunday through Friday are not that great either.