Courtesy Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital AreaBruce Faciane of Baton Rogue, Louisiana, had always been a sweet, quiet man. But starting in 2006, his wife, Pam, started to notice things seemed off. He would hide soda from their kids, refuse to help when his dad came to live with the family, and wouldn’t look for a new position when he lost his job as a cars salesman in 2013.
This wasn’t the Bruce that Pam knew. She insisted he see a doctor, and went with him to the appointment. When she told the doctor what was going on, Bruce denied every detail, but the doctor gave him some tests. Bruce couldn’t remember three words when asked to, or draw a clock.
After further testing, 54-year-old Bruce got his diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“My husband [had] really been out of our relationship for several years,” writes Pam. “How was I going to take care of him, our children, work? I was overwhelmed.”
Friends insisted Pam call Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, but she was in denial. Soon after finding out Bruce had gone through the family’s savings, stopped his life insurance, and left bills unpaid, though, Pam made the call.
Courtesy Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital AreaAlzheimer’s Services gave Pam information about the disease, and checked in with her every few weeks. Eventually, they convinced her Bruce should come to their Charlie’s Place Activity and Respite Center, a day center for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Weekly visits gave him a chance to enjoy music therapy, play stimulating tech games, cook, and socialize. Bruce finally had a safe space to be himself. “A person comes here to just enjoy a purposeful day,” says Dana Territo, director of services for Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area. “Even though it’s an incurable disease, there’s still so much spirit in that individual. They need to keep socially engaged.” (Learn how to maintain an emotional connection with an Alzheimer’s patient.)
Then, in August 2016, heavy rain led to catastrophic floods in Louisiana. The Facianes’ house was one of the 60,000 homes damaged or destroyed in its wake. The family was able to stay at a friend’s house for four months while their home was rebuilt, but Bruce didn’t take the change well. “He wasn’t in the same environment, so he was very disoriented,” says Territo. “It precipitated the progression of the disease.” Normally people can only attend the program once or twice a week, but Alzheimer’s Services let Bruce come every day to take the pressure off Pam as she dealt with home repairs.
Courtesy Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital AreaAfter the Facianes moved back home, Bruce started insisting aliens had taken over and were controlling the dogs and feeding him toxins. He’d spit out drinks to avoid the “poison,” and his family couldn’t convince him he was safe. In Charlie’s Place, though, he had someone to listen to him. Instead of telling him he was wrong, the staff would bring him to the garden and ask what the aliens looked like and did. “We would just get into his world,” says Territo. “Validating his fears made him a little more at ease.” Find more things people with Alzheimer’s wish you knew.
Courtesy Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital AreaWhen his father-in-law had a stroke and went to rehab, Bruce entered a full-time assisted living facility. Still, Alzheimer’s Services continued checking in on the family. With Bruce still distraught by the supposed aliens, the organization hatched a plan to snap him out of it.
Terrino created an official-looking letter with an image of the U.S. Department of Defense logo. With the help of her mom and brother, she crafted a letter explaining that the government had learned about his concerns of the aliens and wanted him to know he was safe and secure because they’d taken care of the problem. They first sent the letter to the niece of another Alzheimer’s Services staff member in Washington, D.C. That woman forwarded the letter on to Bruce, meaning it had a D.C. postmark when it arrived. Pam handed the letter to Bruce, who went outside to read it. She held her breath when he came back inside. “He said, ‘Everything is taken care of now. They’re all gone,’” says Terrino. “We’re hoping that letter has a long-term effect.”
Hopefully, Bruce will be able to return home when Pam’s father finishes rehab. In the meantime, the family is grateful to have Alzheimer’s Services and Charlie’s Place for support.
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