Couple's love strengthened by challenge of Alzheimer's

NEW YORK -- Every Friday, Mike and Carol Daly have dinner at their local Italian restaurant. Tonight, they're celebrating Mike's 71st birthday.

Carol, also 71, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's over a decade ago. Mike cares for her full time, even bringing her to the public library, where he works. CBS News first met the couple in 2008.

"Can't watch movies," Carol said at the time. "Can't concentrate enough -- that went off, too."

No Clark Gable?

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Carol and Mike Daly
CBS News
"Oh, so handsome," she said.

When we spoke again in 2011 and asked if she remembered Gable, Carol said she did but couldn't say who he was.

In 2012, asked what she couldn't do that she used to be able to do when she was well, Carol replied, "Out, out, out. I can't go out by myself."

Today, six years after our first meeting, Carol had trouble telling us her husband's name.

Family members like Mike spend nine hours a day, on average, providing care for relatives. Mike says his shoulders are sore from the burden of caring for his wife.

"But you have to do what you have to do," he says.

Medicare does not pay for personal care at home for patients with Alzheimer's. Mike says he can't afford full-time or live-in help. Even part-time relief is problematic.

While there are respite programs that could give him a break for a few hours once or twice a week, Mike says, "I know Carol wouldn't accept. That's the problem."

"It is my duty, my responsibility, to take care of her," he says. "It's not somebody else's responsibility."

But would Carol have wanted Mike to bear that responsibility all by himself? The Alzheimer's Association says families need to think back to a time when the patient was well and able to think clearly.

Mike and Carol will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in June. Laughter, love and duty still hold them together as Carol's world shrinks and Mike's burden grows.

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  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook

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