I never thought it would happen to us. Our lives have been blessed for years. But then the doctor gave us his final diagnosis. My wife has Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It begins with mild memory loss, then increased memory loss. There are also challenges in perceiving things in three dimensions. This is the reason why most of the time, you see us walking slowly and hand in hand. The person with Alzheimer’s eventually needs more and more day-to-day support.
At first, I didn’t fully understand what the impact would be. I knew many older people get Alzheimer’s, but why my wife, Marisol? She is still young, in her 50’s. Our four kids are finally out of the house. We have plans, things to do, places to go, and life to live! The neurologist said Marisol has “Early Onset Dementia” which is when the disease occurs earlier in a person’s life rather than later. That’s just great.
Well, it’s been about five years now, and it’s been challenging to say the least. I’ve had many thoughts since then, like “God, why this disease? Why something that there is no cure for? Why not a broken leg, a light heart attack, or even diabetes” (I know you’re probably laughing right now, but it’s okay). At least those health problems are slightly controllable. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Okay, now for the super spiritual people. Yes, I believe in miracles, and yes, I believe for my wife’s healing. Yes, I consider her healed. Yes, I have faith.
I genuinely believe that one day God will heal Marisol. Then, she will return to mentoring women to Christ, being a preschool teacher, and interceding and encouraging our four children. And most of all, she will return to me. I will not stop believing in her healing and fighting for her in prayer. We pray together every day, as you can imagine.
By the way, I also give, support, and pray for a medical breakthrough for Alzheimer’s soon; I want this incurable disease to be curable.
Marisol and I have been married for 33 years, and I am grateful for our marriage and family. Everything that I am is because of my wife. However, I can’t help but remember one tiny little section in our marriage vows; maybe you said it too. It goes like this, “In sickness and in health,” remember?
Well, I think I’ve done the “in health” part of our marriage vow. I believe I’m now in the “in sickness” season. When we first married, I imagined that there might be a little sickness in our relationship, but not like this. Marisol has taken exceptional care of me for over 25 years. So how I look at it now is that it’s my turn to return the favor. I hope I can match the love, support, and patience she has given me.
If your spouse has an incurable disease, be encouraged. But also be a learner. After the anger, guilt, frustration, embarrassment, grief, and distress, figure out what you need to do to care for your loved one.
I’m still learning what I need to do myself. In the beginning, I was clueless. Today, I’m learning to be a caregiver (I’m still getting used to that word). I only want to be a husband. I have so many questions and concerns and you will too. But God is faithful. He provides a peace that passes all understanding. As a result, I sleep well and long every night.
If you are married and involved in ministry, remember that your first ministry, your most important ministry, is your marriage; it’s not the things you do at the church. If you don’t prioritize your marriage and neglect your spouse, you can’t be effective in ministry. But if you take care of your spouse and pay attention to your marriage, you will be a powerhouse and very influential in your family and the kingdom of God.
If you and your spouse are healthy, enjoy each other and your family. Don’t get stuck in little arguments being mad at each other often. Instead, be grateful, be humble, get rid of your pride, make peace, be flexible, apologize and learn to listen to each other to understand your spouse and not just to win the argument. You are a team. If one of you loses, both of you lose. Read books on marriage and learn from others.
But I digress; here are a few things I’ve learned that you may want to consider if you are the caregiver for your spouse.
- Look up to the Lord and pray. Pray for healing but also pray for wisdom and peace, and strength for each day. Thank God for what you do have. Find enjoyable activities together – walking, drawing, talking, playing with balloons, watching a movie, etc.
- Ask for help. Most likely, you can’t do this alone. Or at least you shouldn’t. So sit down with family and ask if they are willing to help. If close friends make themselves available, don’t shy away.
- Take care of yourself physically and emotionally; you need to be healthy to care for your spouse. Get out of the house. Go walking, go to the movies, ride a bike, do something. Keep in contact with your friends, and don’t isolate yourself. If you cannot leave your spouse alone, ask a family member to help for a few hours. Although you think you are fine, you need to take a break so you can be refreshed.
- Remember, you are normal. When you get upset and stressed, it’s okay. You are not a superhero. You are human. Just don’t let your emotions get the worst of you.
- Keep in touch with family. Give them updates, and share what’s happening, especially if they ask.
- Remember to plan for your future. Think about your new medical and financial responsibilities and do your research. Yes, your finances may be drastically affected, and it may get a little scary, but do not let yourself get overwhelmed, and do not live in fear. Pray like it all depends on prayer, but work like it all depends on work. As the saying says, “I don’t know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future.”
- Live life to the fullest. Your life is not over; it’s just different. Roll with the punches, be flexible and learn to live in the moment. Decide to be happy on purpose. Develop a new hobby. Write a book.
- Join a support group for caregivers. The people in support groups may be the only ones who really understand what you are going through. They will listen to you, encourage you, and let you cry. At one point, I attended two support groups at the same time. They are extremely helpful; I learn so much and feel so much better each time I attend.
Speaking of support groups, my Alzheimer’s support group for caregivers is participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We’re raising funds and awareness to advance the fight against this disease.
Alzheimer’s isn’t stopping, and neither are we. So if you are in the Los Angeles area, walk with Marisol and me this Saturday, November 5, 2022, and support our team for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.
Donate here: http://act.alz.org/goto/marisol
There is so much that can be said about marriage vows; they are promises that give meaning to the relationship. Marriage vows propose comfort, confidence, and commitment to a husband and wife. Marriage is so wonderful. Don’t give up if you are living in the “in sickness” portion of your marriage vows. Instead, stick with your spouse “in sickness and in health” through the good times and not-so-good times. And know that the Lord cares more about you and your marriage than you do. And he’s only one prayer away.
I welcome your comments.
Resources for Alzheimer Caregivers:
- The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book)
- Alzheimer’s Association. https://www.alz.org/
- 7 Encouraging Bible verses for Caregivers: 1. Proverbs 3:5-6. 2. Exodus 15:26. 3. Philippians 4:6 4. Philippians 4:19 5. Nehemiah 8:10 6. Matthew 11:28-30. 7. Matthew 6:34
Wow Pastor Nick, what an example of the lord Jesus you are modeling to many of us. Such great love , compassion and transparency you share with us. You and sister Marisol will continue to be in our prayers.
Thanks Jerry. We appreciate your kind words.
Great word Pastor Nick its a must read for every spouse. could you please post it in Spanish I would love to share with my friends whom not understand English. Love and prayers for you and Sis. Marisol
Gracias Eva. aquí está la traducción.
Thank you pastor for your vulnerability in posting this!
You’re welcome, Martin. It was challenging.
What a powerful word and example of Gods love! I’m in tears, it convicted me and also remind me to live life. Thank you pastor Nick for sharing this profound message.
so many of your words hit the heart. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.
You’re welcome Noor. And thanks for the encouragement.
Wow thank you for sharing your heart what a beautiful way to show your love I’m gonna pass this on I think it’s very very crucial loving information thank you pastor much prayer to you and Marisol
Thanks Berta. Much appreciated.
This is such an inspirational website, and I am soo glad to see you writing your heart for the Lord. We need more websites and writings just like this. You are a great model of a strong man of God! Much love pastor Nick you and your family are in mine and Kims prayers 🙏
Thanks Moses. You and Kim are also a powerful testimony of the goodness of God.
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