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The Alzheimer’s Spouse: Finding the Grace to Keep the Promise

Everyone surrounding a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease struggles. But caring for a spouse is unique in that the couple is tied to each other on every level: financial, psychological, emotional, sexual, the choice of where we make our home, the turns we take in our careers, the hopes we have for the future, and the tears we have shed together. Once Alzheimer’s intrudes into a marriage, we find ourselves joined to someone who can no longer fully participate in that relationship.

Our spouse’s declining health results in a continuous and predictable stream of losses for both of us. As the spouse of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, we are suspended in a perpetual state of grief and mourning. We recover from one dramatic change only to encounter the next, helplessly watching the steady devastation of our life-partner.

The Alzheimer’s Spouse. Finding the Grace to Keep the Promise is certainly not an “enjoyable” read but a valuable one on multiple levels. It offers understanding, practical guidance, credible data, and honest stories from Mary K. Doyle’s experience. It also offers validation in that we are living out our vows to the extreme as we care for spouses unable to care for themselves. We are giving of ourselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, in the best way we can, as we find the grace to keep the promise.

2020 Award Winner, Catholic Press Association (CPA)
B12: Marriage and Family Living. First Place.
This is a small and very powerful book about marriage, commitment, love, devastating illness, and grace. Mary K. Doyle's book provides knowledge above a disease more common than I ever realized. She states: "as the person with Alzheimer's life becomes smaller, so does ours. Few survive the journey intact, unbruised and undiminished." Mary Doyle offers a profound perspective of what the marriage promise "in sickness and in health" means. She provides insights and practical advice from her depth of experience in caring for her husband both at home until she could no longer do it, needing to place him in a memory care facility. While the book chronicles her experience with Alzheimer's, and its destructive character, some of it is applicable to a spouse caring for his or her spouse in the process of dying from a prolonged debilitating illness. I learned so much about the awful illness of Alzheimer's, but mostly I saw the depth of love and grace and blessings that come from a Christian marriage.

Recent Reviews

  • By Amazon Customer

    A much needed respit in the midst of a storm...

    There are passages in life, journeys if you will, in which we must pass. Difficult, painful journeys with our spouse, our parents, our children even. And we can only pray that we have the strength, the insight, the ability to withstand the events. In this most raw, and honest explanation, Mary Doyle-Brodien lays out, in detail, the path she walked on, the path she stumbled on, the path she kept focused on, as she navigated her husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis.

    As observers, friends, neighbors, we can only see a glimpse of what a caretaker goes through, and though we can deeply sympathize, we will never know what they are BOTH going through, unless we are with them 24/7. In this point, Ms. Doyle-Brodien gives us direct access to her life, and her emotions, of walking this experience, with such perfect detail and evidence, that those who are suffering through this as caregivers (because this is truly suffering for both caregiver and patient) are being given a voice. The voice that explains how this unfolds, with gentle, but blunt, kindness.

    Without proselytizing, the main point of focus that sustains this journey for her, is her faith, and this is the integral anchor that brought her into, through, and to the end of this journey with her beloved husband; she had "the grace to keep the promise" of her marriage vows. This is the central tenet that gave her the ability to continue in moments of exhaustion. And yes, though Alzheimer's takes it toll on the patient, it can take quite the toll on the caregiver.

    She shares the years of research and increasing knowledge of this disease, as she built relationships with Alzheimer's organizations, chapters, foundations, etc in order to best help her, and her husband, Marshall. She explains how it all began, the changes that made her go from wife to caregiver, and the changes that Marshall went through, as this enemy took him away from the life and loves of his life.

    As she writes each chapter, and with each problem, she validates the caregivers feelings and emotions, and gives possible solutions. She acknowledges the frustrations and repetitive motions, as well as increasingly frustrating conversations, that permeate each day, and how they can become exhausting. She acknowledges the loss of memories, and the joys that can no longer be recalled, she acknowledges issues that go beyond the actual physical care such as the legalities and decisions that need to be made in your loved ones stead.

    It was an emotional read, at times exhausting, with tears at what she and Marshall went through; she brings the signs and symptoms that come at each progressive level. She admits her care for him came at a personal price of her own health, before she had to find an Alzheimer's care center for him. Just as this disease process has a slow, serpentine crawl into life, so does the physical and emotional toll for everyone involved, and for this, she supports the caretaker.

    For anyone dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's, I would so very strongly encourage this amazing book of information, support, faith, and validation. An island respit in the mist of the storm.