Coronavirus separates Alzheimer's patient from husband

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 4:22 PM PDT
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For nearly six decades, Mike and Helen Grimes have spent nearly every day with each other. In fact for Mike, it was love at first sight.

“I knew as soon as I saw her this was the woman I was going to marry,” he said.

Even as Alzheimer's starting taking a hold on the woman he loved, and he was forced to put her in a care home, Mike never went more than a day or two without seeing his bride. Every Wednesday they would go ballroom dancing, and they’d have their special dates.

“She'd love to go out and have a hamburger and french fries, but her favorite thing was to get an ice cream. and so every time I’d visit her, we would go have an ice cream.”

Watching the woman he loves slip away is hard enough. but for the last three weeks the only way Mike gets to see his wife is through a 6 inch screen. Twice a week he can Facetime her with the help of Brookdale staff. It’s a far cry from his normal visits, but it’s the best they can do, especially with other families hoping to connect with their loved ones.

“This virus adds another element to the turmoil of having a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's, and it's one that nobody ever saw coming,” Grimes said.

Through it all, Helen's sense of humor has remained in tack. Still the distance is starting to take its toll.

“She's very sad,” Mike said. “She cries a lot, and she can't understand why I'm not there. Why I can't come visit her.”

Even then, Mike considers himself one of the lucky ones. He knows his wife is getting cared for even in his absence. But there are Alzheimer’s patients isolated at home, putting an added strain on their caregivers who often rely on other people to help them take care of chores, or even for a break.

“They don't have respite facilities,” Mike said. “In other words, if it's a husband taking care of a wife or a wife, taking care of a husband, what happens if they get sick? What happens if they can't do this, going to the grocery store, doing these kinds of things, and it's just really hard.”

While he keeps a positive attitude on the phone, the distance is taking its toll on Mike as well. And he’s harboring a secret fear.

“That would be really hard, not being able to say goodbye,” he said. “I don't even want to think about that one. Not being able to say goodbye because you're not allowed in.”

If you are a caregiver isolated at home with your loved one and you need help, the Alzheimer's Association of Northern Nevada can help. For more information, visit

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020