Alzheimer’s amid the pandemic

Updated: Feb. 10, 2021 at 5:44 AM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Robert Rochard,71, and his wife, Jill Rochard,50, have had a whirlwind romance.

“We met through his daughter. I was friends with his daughter for a number of years,” she said. “She just kind of introduced us and we’ve just been together ever since.”

This year, the couple is set to celebrate their 20th anniversary. However, they now find themselves in a similar situation that many couples across the country could have never prepared for: Experiencing a once in a 100-year pandemic.

“It threw a huge wrench into the structure of life,” Jill said.

Robert and Jill have followed CDC guidelines over the past year: Wearing masks and washing their hands. But, the couple has also had to battle with another health challenge.

“She left here one day and drove to her parent’s house, and she was sitting there for a while. I wasn’t with her, I stayed home,” Robert Rochard said. “She called me and she was crying, and I said, “What’s wrong?” She said I do not know how to get back home.”

Jill’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in my early 40s,” Jill said. “I was a school teacher at the time, and I just noticed that I was getting lost traveling to and from work. I was not understanding simple, day-to-day tasks.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 200,000 Americans in the 40s to 50 age group are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“Everyone that has early onset is affected differently. Mine just so happens to affect my frontal lobe,” she said. “A lot of my decision-making skills, being able to complete a task, just the little simplest of things that you can think of, are mountains.”

To help Jill with her condition, Robert has taken on the responsibility of being her primary caregiver, giving him day-to-day responsibilities.

However, due to his triple bypass surgery back in 2008 and type 2 diabetes, he is considered high risk for COVID-19 complications.

“I mask up, rub myself down with hand sanitizer going in and coming out,” Robert said. “I spray down my clothes, and wash clothes very often.”

The couple has now shifted their focus on getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but as they continue to wait for a phone call from their primary care doctor, Robert questions if he would even take the vaccine before it is made available to Jill, who does not yet qualify.

My wife is presently 50 years of age. I am 71 years of age, so therefore they will want to give it to me before they give it to her,” Robert said. “Well, I got news for them. What’s the sense of me being here and she’s not.

While it’s been almost a year since the pandemic forced us into isolation… Jill says being kind to one another will lead us a long way in dealing with the pandemic.

“We don’t know what people are going through in their lives,” she said. “Just be kind, be gentle, be caring, be understanding.”

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