John Becklenberg says his wife, Mary Ann, still cooks their dinner, although her favorite recipes are simplified to one or two steps. She also hasn't relinquished tidying up the kitchen of their Dyed, Ind., home, but there's more clattering of pots and pans than ever before.
She was diagnosed six years ago with Alzheimer's disease, a brain-wasting illness that eventually robs people of their memories and personalities, and interferes with the simplest of tasks. John says his wife is in the early stages. Rather than taking charge, he and Mary Ann, both 68 and sweethearts for 42 years, discuss what she can do and how he can help.
Every morning, they have "coffee and calendar" time, when he "reviews" with her what their day will involve. More recently, he has had to go over the daily schedule several times a day. Her "you never told me that" is followed with "let's review," he says - but it's rather easy "when she's so pretty," he says.
Women are still more likely to be caregivers, but the number of men caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia has soared from 19% to 40% in the past 15 years, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Among people over age 65 with the disease, about two-thirds are women (3.4 million), one-third men (1.8 million).