Written By: Evie Curtis
If you ask, you will get a story. This is a story about an amazing couple – Betty and Bob Woolford. Normally I would change the names but Betty has been very public about their struggle (Betty’s blog can be found at bettywoolford.blogspot.com and is titled “Journey through Alzheimer’s”). My path and Betty’s paths recently merged. I immediately felt a story – a story I wanted to share.
Betty started her blog in 2015 with this – “Bob and I have been on many journeys. We have traveled the world and have been to every continent except Antarctica, where I have no desire to go! But now we are on another journey, a journey we had no idea we were going to take. We made no reservations, and would have declined, had we been given the choice.” Betty’s blogs are filled with resources, stories of the diagnosis struggle, the medication struggle, the friends and family struggle, the people and the businesses that have helped, and the heartache of watching someone you have been married to for over 58 years go through the decline of Alzheimer’s.
Like all couples, your relationship leans toward preferences, strengths and weaknesses. One spouse may do the cooking, one the finances – it works. Betty tells how Bob did the finances for them and loved his role. Betty is a nurse – retired now – but with invaluable insight and skills. As Bob’s health declined, he was able to stay at home because Betty provided 99.9% of his care until it was no longer safe for Bob to remain in a home setting. Bob is still alive as I write this.
In reading Betty’s blogs I couldn’t help but wonder how someone like me could possibly endure what Betty and Bob have. Betty’s nursing skills have probably saved Bob’s life multiple times. Her confidence and knowing Bob’s history has made her an effective advocate. How can we all be better advocates and prepare for the challenges of aging?
None of us can predict the future. Part of how our future looks is under our control. As early as 2005, Betty knew things were happening with Bob and she took proactive steps to get answers. It wasn’t easy.
- Professionals can help you prepare for the future. Whether it’s medical or financial, know and feel confident of the team you have in place. Get your estate plan in order – especially your health care directive. Our time on earth is limited and, thanks to medical science, you will probably have a period of incapacity. Managing your assets for your lifestyle and as your life changes is only enhanced with a professional helping you. Betty discusses the professional team she has put in place recognizing all the family decisions were on her shoulders alone.
- Reach out and ask for help. Betty turned to the Alzheimer’s Association, friends, church, and support groups to help guide her. Making that first step to share Bob’s diagnosis with family and friends was very difficult.
- As life changes, you will need to make changes. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Betty moved Bob when the care provided was no longer acceptable. The professionals in their lives have changed. What hasn’t changed is the love and devotion Betty shows for Bob every day.
- Take care of yourself first. If you don’t, you cannot care for your loved one. Betty recognized how important it was for her to stay healthy and rested.
Betty and Bob’s story continues as I write this. I hope you will take the time to review some of Betty’s blogposts. The blogs are detailed and filled with heartfelt stories, survival hints, and lots of resources. Prepare now for your future. It’s never too early to start – BUT, there will come a time when it’s too late.