His First Year


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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"

We often hear that life is a journey, and it's the journey that matters the path and the experiences more than anything else. The family faced with a loved one struggling against the onset of Alzheimer's Disease often faces new, unexpected twists and turns in their journey.

Both Jim's and John's families faced this several times throughout the care-giving experience. When their loved ones were in the early stages, minor changes to daily life were required a small diversion to the normal routine, a minor turn in the road. As the disease progressed and care-giving needs changed, the roads diverged from their original paths. Both families opted to care for their loved one at home throughout all or as much of the process as possible. For the Downey/John family, Martha Sr's initial frailty was taken into consideration and routines adjusted accordingly. For the Bourke/Smith family, Georgia's mobility factored in and new routines came into play running errands, visits to friends or jobs around the house became somewhat regulated and structured into routines, but slowly changed as some aspects became increasingly difficult to pursue or continue.

Every week, sometimes every day, little changes to daily habits provided further course corrections as each family charted a new path into unfamiliar territory. At some point, care-giving began to have more of an impact in terms of time and availability requirements; this led to, and was exacerbated by, changes in income which also had repercussions into areas like the personal health and health insurance options of the care-givers, in addition to altering options that normally required a small financial outlay. In short, everything had an effect the small changes compounded, built one upon the other in a spiral of change and isolation.

This is why we have written this memoir to offer some perspective on those changes, as we were going through them. The changes we experienced were both positive and negative, and they were always individual, sometimes having an impact on one partner but not the other, sometimes having an impact on everyone but in completely different ways. No single decision is "right" or "wrong" there is only the best decision made at the time, and for the individual situation. No other family entering into the care-giving experience will have the exact same reactions, just as none will face the exact same stresses and challenges. But in seeing what we experienced, and the decisions we each made, over the arc of care-giving and then recovery, perhaps you will be better able to understand your own path, choose your own road.


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