The Neighbors

No one knew there was a problem. Their home was a fashion statement in the neighborhood: the yard methodically manicured, the cars carefully cleaned, and the front door displaying a dazzling seasonal wreath. It’s no surprise that the kids were also noticeably impressive, both athletically and academically; their names were regularly mentioned in the newspaper. Really, the family looked like those pictures on posters advertising “goals for a healthy family.”

But if the walls in the family home could talk, the stories would be less than picture perfect. Three years ago, Katie (wife and mother) was told her father had Alzheimer’s disease. To care for him, Katie resigned from a job she thoroughly enjoyed, and the family’s income was cut in half, as they assumed responsibility for his medical, psychological, and transportation needs. Katie was unable to attend the events her kids were involved in, and her relationship with her husband became tense. As her father’s condition worsened, Katie had to feed him, bathe and dress him, and change his undergarments. He no longer remembered her name and grew angry with her often. Katie was extremely isolated, depressed, and bewildered.

But the walls didn’t talk; so the neighbors didn’t know, the church judged their absence from events, friends didn’t understand, and Katie was overlooked.

Only the sirens from the ambulance announced that the family was in trouble. In the middle of the night, Katie’s father had fallen, hitting his head on the bedside table. She found him covered in blood and immediately got him to the emergency room. Later, she drove home with the bloody blankets but fainted before she reached the door. No one knew Katie had not eaten in two days, was having chest pain, and had neglected to take her anti-depression medication for a week.

Katie was suffering, Katie’s family was struggling, and Katie’s father was dying.

Special needs are not limited to small children with autism, individuals with Down syndrome, or those confined to wheelchairs. Katie and her family all had special needs that others needed to know about and support.

Life has a way of disabling our independence, our ability to function, and our spiritual beliefs. People like Katie are desperate for a message of hope from a gracious and powerful God. A gentle touch, a smile, an offer of practical support—these become the “words” of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Families like Katie’s live in every neighborhood. Will you please take a moment to review the statistics related to Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving, and related needs; and pray about how you might offer help?

Alzheimer’s Disease:

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition characterized by a loss of cognition, altered behavior, and a loss of functional ability, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and organizing finances. Family and friends provide nearly three quarters of all care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This informal care results in significant burden to caregivers. Caregiver burden is the set of physical, psychological or emotional, social, and financial problems that family members may experience when caring for impaired older adults. Caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease patients report higher rates of physical symptoms, mortality, depression, and fatigue, as well as adverse effects on employment compared with those who are not caregivers for Alzheimer’s disease patients. In many cases, the same family members are responsible for both out-of-pocket expenditures and caregiving duties.[ref]D.I. Kaufer, S. Borson, P. Kershaw, and K. Sadik, “Reduction of Caregiver Burden in Alzheimer’s Disease by Treatment with Galantamine,”, PMID: 15908902 [PubMed Free Article (, accessed Feb. 8, 2011.[/ref]