On the CBS Evening News last night there was a very touching story about a man who has been caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s for the last ten years. The network promoted it as a “love story”, which it certainly was. It was also a tragic story.

The couple has been married for more than 50 years. They can’t afford to put her into memory care facility, and even though she doesn’t remember her husband’s name, she is aware that she doesn’t want anyone else in the house with her except him. He said loves her and he sees it as his duty to provide all of her care.

I wanted to cry. I also wanted to grab him by the shoulders and say, “No one should be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no breaks, no respite, no rest and no relief. Unless you have super human powers, you will become physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually depleted. For crying out loud, get a little help and take a break!”

(Okay, I acknowledge that would not be the way to gently persuade anyone to do anything, but it IS how I felt.)

People are often reluctant to take loved ones to adult day care, and they don’t hire home care providers because their care receivers are resistant. However, most of the time, just like a toddler, once their care receiver gets into a place where people are happy to see them, where they get to participate in fun activities and have a little success doing interesting projects, they have a great time. Socialization is energizing. It provides a break for both the caregiver and care receiver. And perhaps, most importantly, it gives the caregiver a chance to recharge his/her batteries so they can continue to do what has to be done.

I once heard someone say that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. I believe that’s true. I also believe the best thing a caregiver can do for a care receiver is take care of him/herself.