National Family Caregivers Month

Artist Cynthia Foster and environmental economist and professor Karel Samsom fell in love, married and opened a business that combined their passions and skills – renovating and running a sustainable vacation retreat near beautiful Venice Beach, Calif.

They were living their dream until Cynthia began to notice serious problems with their finances and changes in Karel's personality. "Karel was managing that aspect of the business, and he couldn't explain what was happening to the money," she explains. "It became a wedge between us."

The couple eventually separated, but they reconciled when Karel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. "I was angry that we'd been apart, and I was grieving and afraid – but I was relieved to reconnect with Karel, because we still loved each other," Cynthia says. "We finally had an answer to what was happening with him, and we could come out of that chaos. It was such a dark time for us, and I was so grateful for the help we received from the Alzheimer's Association."

Cynthia wishes they received Karel's diagnosis sooner. "You want to know early, because there are things you can do to prepare for the road ahead," she says. For the couple, that meant moving to Vermont to be near family, making their home safely accessible for the long term and lining up care resources for various stages of the disease.

Although Cynthia mourns the loss of their plans for the future, she believes an Alzheimer's diagnosis doesn't mean they can't enjoy what life has in store.

"There are still many, many things that Karel can do and contribute," she says. "We dance, hang out with friends and family, travel, camp, make art, ride bikes, walk, go to the movies. It's sometimes different than before, and we have to adjust, but there is still joy and lightness alongside the dark."

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