EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

June 18, 2013

Cafe is just for those dealing with Alzheimer's

(Continued)

“I think I took her for granted,” Luis said. “I didn’t realize that until something like this happened.”

Luis told Len that there isn’t one way to care for his wife.

“There’s no road map which is set out,” he said. “There’s a lot of trial and error involved.”

The program is held at Atkinson Country Club each month and is open to anyone. The women have funded the first three meetings themselves and are working on sponsors for future meetings.

Co-founder Lisa Hare said the meetings have drawn about a dozen participants, who find the informal structure of the program comforting.

“They aren’t going to be questioned,” Hare said. “People aren’t going to say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’”

Since his wife’s diagnosis, Len said, he has had to assume more of her responsibilities.

“There were familiar dishes which were staples of our family for 40 years,” he said. “But I can’t cook her shepherd’s pie or her meatballs.”

Hare said the role reversal is one of the toughest adjustments.

“Most men that come here have been taken care of by their wives for much of their lives,” she said. “Now, it’s completely turned around and it’s a real difficult thing for a marriage. It’s devastating.”

But while shouldering additional burdens is tough for spouses, Luis said, it doesn’t compare to watching their wives battle the disease.

“They are grasping on for their independence,” he said. “They are struggling with their sanity.”

Luis warned Len to start financial planning early.

“You need to make all the decisions,” he said. “I decided things, five, seven, 10 years before they happened.”

The group’s founders hope after a few meetings, the men would be comfortable in bringing their spouses to a meeting.

“The message is to bring anyone affected along,” Hare said. “If she doesn’t want to come, then come yourself because there is something for you, too.”

The Alzheimer’s Cafe meets every third Monday from 10 a.m. to noon at Atkinson Country Club. No reservations are necessary. Call 819-4599 for more information.

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