Caring for a Spouse with Alzheimer's; The Story of Ralph and Mary
While Alzheimer’s disease is often a straightforward diagnosis, it's difficult to understand and cope with the many changes your loved one will experience.
Despite the unforeseen road ahead, Ralph Taylor has lovingly cared for his wife in a special and sacrificial way. Ralph and Mary Taylor have been married for 45 years. They met at General Electric Company in Jonesboro, AR working on the assembly line. They each had two girls from previous marriages and formed one big family. They loved to go camping and enjoy the outdoors. Mary had a passion for working in the flower beds, gardening, and caring for her children.
“I have several fond memories with Mary," Ralph said. "One Christmas morning we had 42 people at our house for a breakfast feast. We worked together in the kitchen preparing food to host our big family and friends. We were always 50/50 teammates. I enjoy just being with her and spending time together.”
Ralph said he noticed changes in Mary after her father passed away in 1994.
"A few weeks after her father’s passing she asked me where her father went," he said. "I had to remind Mary that he passed away even though she coordinated all of his funeral arrangements and attended the funeral. There were many red flags along the way that I should have noticed. She eventually quit cooking and would tell the doctor that she was having trouble concentrating on tasks."
Mary received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the fall of 2013.
Sacrificial Love in Action
As the disease progressed, Mary struggled with short-term memory but found it easier to remember things further back. She would often reference her father and childhood experiences.
Sometimes Mary would ask Ralph, “Where did Ralph go?” Ralph would simply reply, “He had to run some errands and will be back shortly.”
At her current stage, Ralph helps Mary with all of her daily tasks. He gets Mary ready in the mornings and again at bedtime. He does all of the cooking, cleaning, and household tasks. Ralph’s patience, love, and support shines through all that he does for Mary.
"The Taylors have a deep love for each other. You can feel it when you are with them. It’s the kind of love artists write songs about," said Beth Gebhart, RN Case Manager. "Mary’s memory has failed her, but Ralph still remembers everyday why and how much he loves her. It is a privilege to be a part of their Total Life family and assist Ralph in keeping his Mary at home."
Finding Hope Through a Support System
“We were told about a program called St. Bernards Total Life Healthcare from the Area Agency on Aging," Ralph said. "We met with Intake Coordinator Stephanie Yeager, and she helped us with the application process. Mary was approved for the program in March of 2014. St. Bernards Total Life Healthcare has impacted our lives tremendously."
Ralph said Total Life Healthcare has helped him and Mary in ways he would have never imagined.
"We have a Certified Nursing Aide that helps Mary get dressed and ready each morning," he said. "She is then picked up Monday through Friday by a Total Life Healthcare Driver to attend the DayPlace. Mary loves the drivers and gets excited to, 'Go to work' with them each day. The drivers give her high-fives and are always excited to see her."
Ralph said when he and Mary first started with Total Life Healthcare in 2014, Mary struggled to attend DayPlace.
"She wouldn’t respond to me or cooperate with simple tasks," he said. "I would say, 'Mrs. Taylor, it’s time to get dressed' and would be met with much resistance. Little did I know, Mary did not associate herself as 'Mrs. Taylor.'"
Something changed when one of Mary's nurses addressed her as "Mrs. Mary."
"She perked up and started getting dressed right away," Ralph said. "From that day forward, all of the staff at Total Life Healthcare and I only address my wife as 'Mary.' Our nursing aides care for Mary in a special way. They converse with her and get to know her on a personal level."
Ralph said he is especially grateful for the DayPlace service.
"While Mary is at the center I know she is happy and receiving the care and attention she needs," he said. "It also gives me the chance to rest, run errands, and get household work done."
When Mary experienced a significant fall in 2016, Total Life Healthcare supported the Taylors through their journey at St. Elizabeth's Place for rehabilitation.
"After a month of rehabilitation care at St. Elizabeth’s, she stayed an additional month for nursing home services," Ralph said. "I struggled with this decision and thought to myself, 'Why can’t I provide the same kind of care for Mary in our own home?'"
"I told the staff at Total Life about my desire to bring Mary home and they fully supported my decision," Ralph said. "The Therapy Team at Total Life set us up with a hospital bed, wheelchair, and a bedside commode."
Ralph said the Total Life Healthcare team worked hard to ensure Mary's transition home was smooth and comfortable for him and Mary alike.
"I was so excited to have Mary back at home!" Ralph said with a big smile on his face. "I hope to keep her home as long as I can. I’m completely satisfied with the care and support we have received from Total Life. Without them, keeping Mary at home would have been impossible for me."
To learn more about St. Bernards Total Life Healthcare contact us at (870)-207-7500 or visit our website: St. Bernards Total Life Healthcare.