You may have read the following news clip or perhaps you saw a related television interview–Barbara Smith, known as B. Smith — who is called “the black Martha Stewart” — recently shared with CBS News that she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Smith, 64, began her career as a model and was one of the first African Americans to grace the cover of Mademoiselle. In 1986, she opened her first restaurant in New York City, and two more followed. She went on to become a pioneer in the lifestyle area, an expert in food and home entertaining.
Around four years ago, Smith noticed that she was repeating herself and forgetting things. She shared her symptoms with her doctor before she told her husband and business partner of 22 years, Dan Gasby, CBS reports.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s and strokes do not discriminate when finding victims. And it can hit close to home at any time–my 88-year old uncle was caring for his wife of over 60 years who has cancer when he suffered a stroke last week.
The common thread with these situations and yours is that family members are impacted by diseases that result in cognitive decline. In the United States alone, some 15 million family members are involved in caring for 5 million loved ones with Alzheimer’s. It is said that one in three persons knows someone who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Certainly, B. Smith’s husband Dan Gasby can marshal an army of paid caregivers to assist him as his wife’s disease progresses, but down in Green Valley, Arizona it is my cousins who bear the load of caring for my aunt and uncle, as he moves from the hospital into rehab and hopefully back home. But having vast resources to draw on won’t minimize the impact on Mr. Gasby. Like every other family member affected by a loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, his suffering is emotional as he watches his otherwise healthy wife lose her memory at a very young age.
On June 24, the anniversary of opening our care home in Baldwin City, I celebrated the residents our home has served these past 3 years, but what is foremost in my mind today is paying tribute to the family caregivers who never stop thinking about their loved ones’ plight. After adjusting to a loved one being placed in a care home, the respite the home’s employees provide may help to dull the family’s pain, but the family members never relinquish their roles as chief caregivers. Because let’s be real, no one can love a family member like his or her relatives can.
So today, let’s keep all the family caregivers we know in our thoughts and prayers, remembering them always as they suffer what we call “the long goodbye.”
Scott Schultz, President, ComfortCare Homes Ottawa