Thursday, September 16, 2004

Families of Alzheimer Patients

Newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer have done an admirable job over the past several years in occasionally detailing the daily life of caregivers and family members of people who have developed Alzheimer disease. Today's New York Times again provides a profile, this time of the Dillon family:

The Long Goodbye:
Alzheimer's in the Living Room: How One Family Rallies to Cope

Published: September 16, 2004

After his retirement as a New York City carpenter four years ago, and before he faded into the incoherent fog of Alzheimer's disease, Christopher Dillon and his two grown sons renovated a bathroom in the basement of the family's Queens home.

It would be the last multigeneration home-improvement project for the Dillons. But the tiny room with its stall shower would soon become center stage in a family's determined effort to care for a failing loved one at home.

Giving Mr. Dillon, 66, a shower is unbearable for his wife, Kitty, 63, despite her long experience working in a nursing home. She has only to lay out towels, washcloth and soap and Mr. Dillon becomes agitated, sometimes shoving her or pulling her hair, she said.

So the task falls to her strapping boys, Chris, 36, a sanitation worker, and David, 34, a police officer. The National Guard, Mrs. Dillon calls them, riding to her rescue each evening with stores of patience and good cheer that she, as the primary caregiver, feels seeping away.

"It's overwhelming, worse every day," Mrs. Dillon said recently, wincing from stomach pain and steadily losing weight. "I don't have any life. Whatever happened to the golden years? Both of us have been robbed of everything we worked for."

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