Women’s health: Moreau woman shares story of being a caregiver for husband with early-onset Alzheimer’s


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Cheri Davies said her son, Aidan, was the first to recognize the emergence of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in her husband, Chris, when Chris was 48 years old. It wasn’t long after that a close friend told Cheri her husband was repeating some of the things he said.

That’s when Davies said she started paying closer attention to Chris’s behavior and noticed he was having memory problems and changes in his personality.

Facts about early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Early Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in five to six percent of those with the disease below the age of 65.
  • Those who develop early-onset Alzheimer’s are between the ages of 30-60.
  • Doctors are uncertain about what causes the majority of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease cases.
  • Early-onset of Alzheimer’s can also be linked to genetics.

*Source: The Mayo Clinic

Davies, a trained clinical social worker, decided to go with her husband to his annual primary care visit and said she was shocked to hear he was having problems remembering where things were. She was also shocked when the doctor gave Chris a cognitive function test in the office that revealed there could be more going on.

Further testing showed Chris had early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and despite initial success with medication, he has continued cognitive decline to the point he is no longer able to work. In order to care for her husband, Davies now works part-time and said she is grateful for the time she has with her husband and for the support she gets from family, friends, organizations, and the medical field.

Davies said she struggles with living in the moment and living with the grief from knowing her husband’s disease will continue progressing. She realized soon after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that she was going to need the support of a counselor. Davies said although she must help her husband remember daily chores like feeding their dog, she gets help and understanding from family and friends.

What does caregiver stress look like?

  • Denying the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will get better.
  • Anger or frustration towards the person diagnosed.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Anxiety and/or depression.
  • Sleeplessness or exhaustion.
  • Irritability.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Health problems including an overall feeling of being unwell.

*Source: Alzheimer’s Association

How caregivers can stay healthy

  • Keep routine doctor visits and see your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping, have a lack of appetite, or are experiencing a decline in mental health.
  • Be realistic.
  • Manage stress.
  • Eat well and exercise.
  • Take a break from caregiving.
  • Accept changes.
  • Know that you’re doing your best.

*Source: Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association has a webpage dedicated to helping caregivers. Saint Peter’s Health Partners also offers resources for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Christina Arangio’s full interview with Cheri Davies


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