Care for Alzheimer’s patients poses many challenges

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Experts say caring for someone with dementia can be a full-time job, similar to taking care of a child. Joan Cooke from Prairie Village, Kan. knows the feeling all too well. Her 85-year old husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease 10 years ago.

"It's hell watching this happen to someone you love," she said.

She's had to pull in the reins as his disease progresses.

"You dont want to take someone's freedom away from them...and frankly for men, it's their ego, so thats very complicated," she said.

The first thing to go were his car keys.

"We've still got his car, but the keys are someplace else, so that's helpful. The problem is he gets my car keys and tries to put them in his car," said Cooke.

Michelle Niedens, the Director of Education and Public Policy for the Alzheimers Assocation, said as a caregiver, this decision is almost always necessary.

"A lot of individuals that get lost who are driving will drive until they run out of gas. There's just not the processing of 'I need to do this' and not looking ahead," she said.

Another obstacle Cooke said she faces with her husband is letting him roam around on his own.

"I have to keep track of him because there are some things he can do," said Cooke. "He can walk across the street and go to the hardware store, buy what he wants, bring it home and sometimes he even pushes a cart home because there's so much, and then I have to take it back."

Neidens called wandering a common problem for those with Alzheimer's.

"We need to pay attention to their time alone and we need to keep people busy. A lot of times when people are very bored, that's when we see behavioral issues emerge," she said.

Cooke said sometimes she feels more like a parent, than a wife when trying to protect her husband, from himself.

"It's not a good responsibility because no one wants to be the man in the black hat but somebody has to," she said.

For more information on Alzheimer's Disease and being a caregiver, click this link.

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