25 Sep 20210 Comments
About six years ago, Linda Katz started having difficulty teaching her social work classes and, soon thereafter, resigned her position. Within months, Linda – who holds a PhD from New York University – started experiencing hallucinations, recalls Bob, her husband of nearly five decades. “The hallucinations and the fact that she could no longer control the class were the signs that something was wrong,” he says.
The couple visited various psychiatrists and neurologists. And at age 68, Linda was diagnosed with frontotemporal disease, a type of dementia often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease.
Following the diagnosis, Bob continued to care for Linda at home. He installed cameras, put in new locks, replaced the glass front door with a solid wood door, and put shades on all the windows to block out the outside. “When she saw the lights outside, it activated the hallucinations,” he said. “She would see a car or a shadow pass by and think it was a witch or dancing people.”
One of their sons and his wife, living in Scarsdale, helped, too – visiting frequently and giving Bob a chance to run errands or shop for groceries. “My son in Scarsdale came three or four times a week, for several hours, so I could get a break,” he recalls. “It allowed her [Linda] to be home another year. It kept her happy and she was doing more… and, then, the disease continued its path.”
“The type of dementia that Linda has is walking dementia, which means that the illness creates the compulsion to walk – night and day,” Bob explains. “She would refuse to come upstairs to go to sleep. I was getting no sleep. I lost 30 pounds.”
Prior to the pandemic, Bob had employed an aide to help. But once the pandemic was underway, the aide was no longer able to come. She worked in a nursing home and it would have been too risky for her to continue to come to the Katz’s.
“As Linda’s condition worsened, I was getting older and more tired,” Bob says. (He is now 82 and Linda is 73.) “During the day, she was agile,” he says. “She had spent years working out, doing yoga and meditation, so she is in really good physical shape.”
But with the constant nighttime wandering and the need for round the clock monitoring, it was becoming harder and harder for Bob to care for Linda at home. And then, in March of this year, Linda fell and broke her nose, prompting Bob to seek out a residential community for her. He ultimately chose Artis Senior Living in Briarcliff Manor and Linda moved there in May. “It is an incredible place, just wonderful,” he says. “There are beautiful gardens for Linda to walk in and she can sit in the sun.”
In June, his son, daughter-in-law, and their two children moved in with Bob. “It’s a challenge but it is incredible – just wonderful to have them here,” he says. “I go see Linda every other day. I can get out now and I know she is not in danger. But it is just incredibly sad. Emotionally it is very tough. We were married for 46 years.”