Finding Strength Beneath The Weight Of Alzheimer’s

October 10, 2022

When we’re faced with hardships like health problems in life, all most of us want to hear is “Everything is fine.” We want to know that even on our worst days, it’s going to be ok.

More than 6 million Americans are currently facing Alzheimer’s. The CDC tells us that at least 16 million caregivers in the United States are providing care for friends or family who suffer from dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.

We might anticipate that something like Alzheimer’s could impact our parents, but what if it’s your spouse or significant other?

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Paul and Michelle’s Story

At just 56 years old, Paul Breen began to face early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. With his wife and caregiver Michelle by his side, they quickly devised a plan for his future. Michelle formerly worked for the Alzheimer’s Association as an RN, so they were very well-acquainted with Alzheimer’s disease. However, no one, including them, is ever prepared to receive such a devastating diagnosis.

They created a plan early on so that Paul could still make decisions regarding his future with Michelle. For the almost 6 years following his diagnosis, Paul’s time was filled with socializing, golfing, and spending time with loved ones. He decided to move to Edgewood after an incident when he quietly left home alone late one winter evening. Given the circumstances and the dangers of blistering cold North Dakota winters, they knew it was time.

Finding Help Along the Way

Leading up to Paul’s move, he attended “Men’s Club” at Edgewood Fargo, an activity that best fit his needs and interests, as part of their adult day service program.

Adult day services allow those who are experiencing memory loss to “stay for the day.” During the week, Monday – Friday, those with memory loss can come in and receive personal care, meals, and activities that they enjoy; they can stay for an hour, a few hours, or the day, depending on their needs. Day services allow loved ones and/or caregivers to feel peace of mind while they can do things for themselves, too.

Using adult day services was a “toe in the water,” as Michelle describes it, in helping Paul adjust to being at Edgewood. He began with day services, and when it came time for him to move, he was comfortable at Edgewood and had friends there.

Unconditional Love Fuels Creativity

When Paul moved in, Michelle allowed him time to acclimate by waiting several days to visit. They remained in phone contact, and on a difficult day, Paul asked a staff member to help him place a call to Michelle. He got her voicemail, which was an automated greeting. Not hearing Michelle’s actual voice confused and upset Paul, which was very apparent to her as she listened to his message.

Michelle decided to adjust her voicemail so that if Paul ever needed to leave a message, he could hear her voice and feel comfort and reassurance instead of worry. Her voicemail today now sounds like this:

“Paul, if this is you, everything is fine. I love you, go back to your room, and I’ll see you in the morning. Have a good night.”

Her greeting is such a powerful reminder that caregiving may shift, we may get a break, but we’re never done being concerned for our loved ones. Michelle explained, “Caregiving never stops; you just get to take a little break.”

Advice for Caregivers and Loved Ones

Providing care and comfort during the hardest of times – even when we feel like we’re crumbling inside – takes a toll. While there’s no roadmap or textbook on how the Alzheimer’s journey should be traveled, we do have a few suggestions to consider.

Finding Support

Behind the faces of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, you’ll find an incredible amount of unconditional love from their caregivers and families. Be sure to check in with them, too. They need comfort right along with the person who has Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a tremendous resource for families navigating this disease. Edgewood Healthcare worked with the Alzheimer’s Association this year on an educational series featured on YouTube, where you can access the three-part series. The series is an opportunity to learn more, such as the latest facts and figures about the disease and ideas on how to manage your loved one’s symptoms and changes.

If you or someone you care about could use support in managing Alzheimer’s, please contact us at

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