Cathy and Alex have been packing their retirement with beautiful moments. Whether it’s catching up with friends for outings to the theatre and cinema or taking a once-in-a-lifetime luxury cruise, the couple are living for today in every way they can.
But while it sounds like the dream retirement, they have chosen to live this way because Alex was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago and they are painfully aware that at some point, he won’t be able to enjoy these magic times in the way he can now.
Cathy recalls that the moment her husband was diagnosed was a brutal one. After becoming worried about her husband’s memory and bringing it up on three separate occasions with their family GP of 20 years, Cathy managed to get Alex referred to a specialist.
“I went to the specialist and boy, were we gutted,” Cathy remembers. “He said, ‘you should have been here sooner, we like to get this early, you know?’ Boy, did he lecture me.”
“It was so unfair. In the sixth breath he said, ‘You’ll be getting a letter from the road’s board. He won’t be able to keep driving’. We got all this in 10 minutes.”
“When you’re getting told news like that, you need a little bit of compassion. We came out in the car port and we couldn’t move. We were so gutted.”
Since that initial shock, though, Cathy says that life hasn’t changed all that much from what it was before her husband’s diagnosis. While Alex doesn’t speak often and has no memory of either long-past events or those of 10 minutes previous, he can still complete day-to-day activities with his wife’s assistance.
“He’s still got his skills, he has no problem showering or looking after himself,” she says. “I would have to help lay out what he’s perhaps going to wear or he might just wear the same thing every day. Other than that, we manage.
“I keep him very busy. For instance, we made pumpkin soup and Alex chopped the onions, he chopped the pumpkin. We still are a very active team. He’ll make the bed every morning, he does as much in the house as I do.”
Because Alex is still largely self-sufficient, the couple has been able to maintain a thriving social life, with the assistance of a supportive group of friends and family members.
“I’m very fortunate that my friends are very happy to include us,” Cathy says. “I think it would be very difficult and some people feel very left out. I’m lucky I’ve got friends who are still happy with us to come along.
“That makes a huge difference I think, if you’ve got friends that are there for you. I’d hate to think if it was just me and Alex.”
Still, Cathy misses the conversations she used to be able to have with her partner in life, especially when it comes to the financial side of the relationship.
“There are times you would like to sit down and have a chat. Say the banking, he used to do but doesn’t do any more,” Cathy says. “I miss him to discuss things with. I’ll talk and he’ll listen, but he’s not up to giving advice and making decisions. You really miss that. You’re really on your own that way.”
In addition to the medications Alex takes to manage his condition, he participates in therapies including meditation and active listening therapy to help him focus and concentrate. Alex also lives a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t have high blood pressure or diabetes, and although Alzheimer’s can impact vision, he doesn’t need glasses.
Alex also uses a daily medical nutrition drink called Souvenaid®, which Cathy believes has helped slow the worsening of his Alzheimer’s symptoms.
“I like to think Souvenaid® has helped,” she says. “We saw [Alex’s specialist] about three months ago and he said Alex still has his skills and he didn’t feel he deteriorated much in the last six months. That was good news.”
That said, Cathy knows that the treatments are at best delaying a decline in Alex’s condition, rather than preventing it from occurring.
“My philosophy is we do as much as we can, while we can,” she says. “We keep busy, we’re having our second cruise next month, so we try and live as busy and normal as possible, because we don’t know what next year is going to bring.”
Souvenaid® is a Food for Special Medical Purposes for the dietary management of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Souvenaid® must be used under medical supervision. You must seek advice from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are unsure of your condition or diagnosis or if you would like to use Souvenaid®.