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.
- 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.
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.
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.