In a world full of people running after temporary pleasures, create yourself an everlasting love story like that of Jose and Anna.
Despite his age of 79, Jose was possessed of the spirit, curiosity, sense of humor, and playfulness of a child. That would be enough to make anyone attractive. But there was something even more compelling about Jose that was less obvious until you got to know him a little better. Jose is a profoundly caring man. Although he has not had what most of us would consider to be an easy life, he has managed to live with an open heart and a profound commitment to giving to others.
Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of Jose’s generosity of spirit has been his wife Anna to whom he was married for 38 years. Anna passed away in 2009 after suffering for eleven years with Alzheimer’s disease. From the moment that her disease was diagnosed, Jose became her exclusive and then primary caregiver until her death.
“I knew even before the diagnosis was official that Anna had a physiological problem and I made a decision that I was going to dedicate my life to doing whatever I could to ease her physical and mental suffering. I first noticed that she was misplacing little things that she had been able to keep track of before. Anna was a schoolteacher for pre-kindergarten in a Catholic school in Florida. I wasn’t the only one who was noticing that Anna was becoming more forgetful, distracted, and absent-minded; the staff and administration noticed this too.”
“It got to the point where they couldn’t renew her contract because of what had become a serious disability that was preventing her from adequately fulfilling her responsibility to her students, whom she dearly loved. She was heart-broken to have to take early retirement.”
Left without an important source of family income, Jose and Anna were now also be left without the insurance that her job had provided for her, Jose, and their two daughters. Jose had been very active in supporting the church that he and his family attended. When he spoke about the family’s situation with their priest, he helped them secure health insurance. During this time Jose’s primary concern was on supporting Anna, who had still not been informed about her diagnosis and prognosis for the future.
“I knew that Anna was not ready to accept the reality of her situation. Without actually saying so, she made that clear to me in no uncertain terms. I had to respect the limits of her capacity to face it, even though that meant having to ‘bend the truth’ to minimize her suffering”.
When it became apparent that Anna was not safe being left alone in the house or behind the wheel of their car, Jose told her that the car needed repairs but that it wasn’t worth fixing. Anna accepted Jose’s explanations when he was forced to remove other freedoms. “I think she might have had a greater awareness of her condition than she let on to me. I guess I’ll never know for sure.”
Shortly after turning 62, Jose took an early retirement from his business. After checking out the local memory care facilities for Alzheimer’s patients, He decided to keep Anna at home and be her primary caregiver on a daily basis.
Over time, Jose’s energies were being severely depleted and he was in need of some support himself, so he checked out the local Alzheimer’s support group for caregivers.
“It was very depressing”, he told us. “Everyone was so fearful and filled with sorrow that I knew that it wasn’t for me. My attitude towards the situation was very different from the people in that group.”
Jose stayed by Anna’s side practically non-stop for eleven years, providing increasingly higher levels of service as her dependency on him grew.
“Anna seemed to feel much better when we had a predictable routine that she could rely upon. So there were regulatory scheduled events and activities that we did on a regular basis. On Saturdays, we went to the Mall and afterwards went to the movies that she always enjoyed. She loved Parrot Jungle, which we visited every Sunday afternoon.”
Because they both had always loved to travel, Jose had handicapped apparatus installed in his car and they traveled extensively throughout the state of Florida.
“In many ways”, Jose told us, “I was closer to Anna after Alzheimer’s than I had been prior to her illness. Her inability to communicate with me as easily as she used to challenged me to pay closer attention to her in order to understand what she was feeling and needing.