Caring for a Wife with Alzheimer’s for 18 Years

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This is truly a story about commitment to wedding vows “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” Bob Jagers married his wife, Rose, when he was just 23 years old, fresh out of the Navy. They were married for 65 years. Rose was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 70, but Bob says she had the symptoms for several years before that. He spent that time searching for someone who knew what was happening to his wife. He wrote down everything she was doing, and he finally found a neuro-psychologist who understood. Bob says he cried long and hard and prayed a lot during that extremely difficult and frustrating time. While she didn’t “act up” in front of others, he took the brunt of her frequent angry outbursts. These outbursts could last for five minutes or for an hour or longer. Bob says, “The more I fought against the situation, the more difficult and longer the outbursts became.”

Once he got the diagnosis, Bob began going to workshops and seminars to educate himself about the disease, and today he stresses how important education is. Bob also started and ran a support group for ten years when they were living in Michigan. He learned some important lessons during that time. He learned that his reactions to Rose’s issues were creating undesirable reactions from Rose.  For example, when she threw food on the floor, his initial response was, “Why do you throw the food on the floor? Now I have to clean it up,” to which she often replied, “Good.” After he was educated, he would say, “Wow, you are changing the flavor of the food.” He learned that his responses were part of the problem.

Bob’s offers this advice, “Don’t be put on the defensive by the incidents; instead try to use laughter or a compliment to diffuse the situation.” He also tapped into her interests. Rose enjoyed watching birds so Bob put out bird feeders, and he used old photographs to keep Rose out of her “dark holes.” He also hired a woman to help care for her and that changed her whole attitude and made him feel much better.

Bob stresses the importance of caregivers taking time out for themselves. In Bob’s case, it was tutoring children. When Bob retired, Rose encouraged him to tutor and often came with him. It turned out to be a meaningful escape, so he has tutored for 17 years. Today, Bob tutors at Bea’s Kids and thoroughly enjoys it.

Bob is a fascinating man who has published two books titled, Whales of WWII: Military Life of Robert Jagers June 1942 to October 1945 and Inedible BLT, which stands for Bob’s Lesson Today. He is about to publish a book about his life experiences, including caring for Rose. He received the Purple Heart for his injuries in the war and is a popular speaker.

When Rose was 85 years old, Bob’s back problems became so severe that he could no longer care for her himself, so they moved from Michigan to Carrollton in 2007. He had to put her in an assisted living home while he lived with his daughter. But Rose was very unhappy there, so he moved her to a second home, which was better. Bob feels that all the moves, including the move from Michigan to Dallas, were very traumatic for her.  

Rose passed away in 2011, and Bob still misses her. He was a steadfast caregiver with a deep faith and prayer life. He was a husband, who took his wedding vows very seriously.

What Helped:

    • Educating himself about the disease.
    • His tutoring work – finding some meaningful work to do.
    • The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life by Nancy L. Mace.
    • Laughter, giving compliments, and making jokes.

Scripture Verses:

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for this example of a strong marriage. You gave Bob the strength and patience to care for dear Rose. He learned many lessons about the disease and the most important lesson of all, he learned to remain steadfast in Your care.

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Cancer Strikes Three Generations of Amazing Women

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Can you imagine being only 17 years old and finding out that your mother has breast cancer with a grim prognosis? That was reality for Susi living in Iran during the Iranian revolution of 1978 – 1979.  Susi is part Iranian and part Italian. Her father was in the Iranian Imperial Navy and was imprisoned for six months for two reasons: he was an admiral for the former Shah of Iran, and his family was Christian. Her mother, Maria Pia, was dying. She passed away just two weeks after he was released. As the second oldest of five children, Susi and her older brother were the only children who knew the prognosis. Her brother was in college, so it fell to Susi to care for her dear mother and keep her secret. Her mother died at the age of 48. Susi says, “It’s very hard to miss your Mom most of your life. She missed so many births, weddings, and special occasions.”

Cancer definitely runs in the family as her Grandmother also had a tumor in her breast, and several cousins had cancer. Miriam, her younger sister in Italy, was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer when Susi was 40 years old. And two years later, Miriam was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. Susi bought an airline ticket to go and help her with chemo and help care for her three young boys in the summer.

But God had other plans for her. Several weeks after Susi’s 49th birthday, she noticed that one breast was getting heavier and became inflamed with a rash – it was twice the size of the other breast. Her doctor said she had a breast infection and put her on antibiotics. She researched Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) and was sure that was what she had, but her doctor told her to stay on the antibiotics even though he knew her family history.

She was proactive and called to schedule a mammogram, which took days to get in.  When the radiologist looked, he immediately ordered a sonogram, and Susi could see his concern. She immediately began to cry and thought about her family, her husband, three beautiful children, and an aging father in Italy. She had the painful biopsy that day and got the result the following day. It was, as she had guessed, stage III IBC. Panic, depression, and confusion set in, and she was overwhelmed with worry.

That radiologist saved her life, and she found an amazing surgeon who was with her for the rest of her journey. After her mastectomy, she had a vision of her mother telling her in Italian that everything would be ok. A few minutes later, the doctor told her that the pathology report showed no sign of cancer. After doing chemo, surgery, and radiation, her doctor used the word “cured.”

She and her sister supported each other. She says she lost her hair here while her sister lost hers in Italy. Her family, relatives, and many friends tenderly cared for her. Susi had to be strong, particularly for her children, as they were looking to her for hope.

Susi is a teacher for a small, Catholic school in Dallas, and she continued to work part-time. The staff, students, and friends there were nothing short of amazing. They even initiated a fund so that Susi could go to Italy with her daughter to visit her ill sister. Friends and family were with her at each chemo treatment. Yes, Susi faced depression, but she is a hopeful person and planned things to look forward to. She prayed that she would be there for weddings and grandchildren.

Susi’s advice is to be proactive about your own health. Misdiagnosis is common, even with all the information out there. She has lost three members of the support group she began, because they were misdiagnosed. “Knowledge is power,” she says.

Fast forward to today. She has been able to do the 5K cancer walk every year and use the word “survivor.” Her sister is also doing well. Susi has been blessed with three grandchildren and is an inspiration to all who know her. She is a strong, intelligent, and extremely kind friend, who is loved and admired by many!

What Helped:

  • Reading the Bible and praying continually.
  • Books about cancer, such as Promise Me by Susan G. Komen and books on nutrition and healing, such as Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Dr. Patrick Quillin.
  • Keeping a journal.
  • Regular exercise, especially walks at the Botanical Gardens with her husband.
  • An awesome team of doctors and nurses.

Scripture Verse:

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

Susi’s favorite motto is: “This too shall pass.” Her favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for the example of faith and hope that Susi possesses. Thank you for her family, medical team, friends, co-workers, and other IBC patients, who cared for her throughout this entire process. She put her faith in You, and You healed her.

 

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