Jun 202012

Today is the longest day of the year — and as evening sets, Alzheimer’s advocates across the globe are pushing themselves to the finish line of a 16-hour endurance relay to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s.

This event, Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day™, and the dedication it requires holds such significance for those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It symbolizes the endurance, love, patience and strength it takes to live with this disease — and believe me — it does require all of these things. I know because I am a caregiver for my husband, Earl, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 64.

For us, the longest day was the day that Earl retired. He left a very successful law practice to enroll in a day program that provides activities and socialization for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s. The transition isn’t one we ever imagined he would be making in this life. And the reality was a difficult one to accept.

But, on that day — and all the days since — we put one foot in front of the other. We have now been living with Alzheimer’s for four years. We take with each day as it comes and deal with it together.

We gather strength from other couples that are dealing with similar situations. I have made strong friendships with four other women whose husbands have Alzheimer’s, and we meet regularly to support one another. Earl and I also go to a younger-onset support group and participate in events to help raise awareness.

Much of Earl’s energy is spent volunteering on projects. While he can no longer practice law, he finds meaning in helping others. He volunteers at a food bank and at our church. He’s passionate about his many volunteer activities and finds strength in giving himself to others.

As the disease continues to progress, my role as caregiver has changed. It is now a 24-hour job, but one that allows us time together. While it requires patience and love, there are days and moments to relish. We bike, go to yoga three times each week and stay active. We still have this time together — right now — and we are determined to cherish it.

Both Earl and I have hope that one day, there will be a way to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s, and that our children and grandchildren will not have to deal with this disease again later in their lives. Just as there is an end to the longest day of the year, we believe there is an end to this disease. When all of those affected by Alzheimer’s stand together, our impact can be great.

Sandy Reiland is a caregiver for her husband Earl Reiland, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 and served on the Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Advisory Group in 2011. A working caregiver, Sandy is an HR professional four days a week. She has been married to Earl for 30 years, and together they have four children and four grandchildren.

  6 Responses to “With Endurance and Each Other, We Will Push Past the Finish Line in this Fight Against Alzheimer’s”

  1. I think I am walking in your "shoes" as my husband of 50 years was also diagnosed in 2008. The cruel irony here is that I retired as a nurse consultant with the Alzheimer's Association. What had been a professional passion has, unfortunately, become a personal challenge. I was invloved with teaching, lecturing, writing, etc. so the road is familiar, but not so as a wife of a diagnosed individual.
    My best to you and yours. We will soon be in Hawaii for a brief vacation with family, but perhaps can communicate when I return.
    Mary Ann Fricker, MSN,RN

  2. Dear Sandy and Earl,
    I have read your post, and once again, I'm struck with the courage and the positive outlook you continue to have for your futures. I lost my dad 3 1/2 years ago with Alzheimers disease and now, we are losing our mother samely. God be with you and your dear husband as you travel this journey with him. I will watch for your comments, and would like to become a blogger on this site.

  3. Dear Samdy and Earl,

    Our prayers will be with you both.I opened Jacobs Ladder Family Assisted Living a little over 5 years ago. We now have two small homes. The experts in the disease say we do an excellent job. I know our caretakers do, I have been a nurse for more then 20 years nothing has grieved me more than watching these brave individuals and they're families go through they're journeys. Looking forward to reading blogs and learning better ways we can assist in the fight against this.
    God bless Earl, you and your family.

  4. I am so encouraged by the new research results that have come out this month.

    Events like this remind me so much of my visits with my grandma in a Nursing Home. She couldn’t talk but she would always smile when she saw me and chuckle when I poked fun at her son (my dad). She especially perked up when I tried to embarrass him. She loved that!

  5. Hello, I too am walking in your shoes. My husband was diagnosed at the age of 66 in 2009. He was a national speaker, clinical psycologist and successful business man. His diagnoses was devastating. We have been blessed with some of the greatest doctors in the field of AD , however there is still no drug to bring it to a halt. I pray everyday that we can slow the progression. I take everyday as a blessing and have as much fun as possible. Wishing you the best.

  6. One thing we have noticed that does slow the progression of the disease, is always having loving people around my dad. His moods really are determined by his company and how stressed that company is truly has an effect on his demeanor. It is important to always keep in mind, the person we love, not the disease they carry.

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