Both Sharon Corso and Marcy Brownson struggle to care for their husbands, who suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Their situations are expected to become increasingly common as numbers of dementia patients grow exponentially in the coming decades.
Three years ago, Anthony Corso got so angry with his wife he stormed out of their Queens apartment and hopped a bus to Florida without telling her.
When it stopped in Georgia, he couldn’t remember how he got there.
“They said he didn’t want to get back on the bus,” wife Sharon Corso, 72, recalled.
“The whole ordeal made me too sick to travel, so his brother picked him up. It was very, very trying to say the least.”
Anthony, a retired upholsterer from Briarwood, has advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
He went straight into a 72-hour hospital hold when he got back.
Sharon told the staff she couldn’t control him anymore, but they threatened to send him to a shelter if she didn’t take him home. He wandered off again a couple of days after Hurricane Sandy and could have died in the cold and chaos that followed.
A hospital placed him in a residential care facility, but he was expelled for wandering into the rooms of non-Alzheimer’s patients, Sharon said.
The ordeal was hard on Anthony, as well as Sharon.
“I developed an ulcer, anxiety attacks and was in a complete state of depression,” she said.
After bouncing in and out of more emergency rooms, in February he landed at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan — which has an entire floor for ambulatory Alzheimer’s patients, she said.
Sharon’s struggle is hardly an anomaly.
A new survey of 496 city residents caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s found high levels of stress and frustration and an urgent need for improved city services. More than 40% of respondents said they spend a staggering 40 hours or more each week providing hands-on care.
Half of the respondents had a negative view of city support services, and 95.5% said the city needs a new plan to address the “caregiver crisis.”
The report — due out Sunday from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the city’s chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association — calls for a new citywide task force to address a rapidly aging population.
It also calls for more Alzheimer’s training for health and social services workers, more funding for caregiver support, expanded day care programs and the extension of the New York City Child Tax Credit to cover dependent care.
“This is a growing health-care emergency and a nightmare for victims and their caregivers. We need a citywide dialogue on how to tackle this devastating disease,” Stringer said.
Currently, about one in 16 New Yorkers has been diagnosed with dementia related to Alzheimer’s or has a loved one with the disease, Lou-Ellen Barkan, president of the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, said.
“We’re looking at a dramatic shift going forward, where one in five will either have Alzheimer’s or be taking care of someone who does in 30 years,” she said. “We need to get ahead of it.”
Manhattan resident Marcy Brownson, 69, said she would love more day care programs with flexible schedules because her 84-year-old husband, Ed, who has vascular dementia, sleeps until noon.
Dementia is like an emery board that wears you down and rubs you raw, Brownson said.
She pays at least $150 daily for someone to watch Ed, a retired lawyer, in their apartment if she goes out.
“We worked hard, put money away and didn’t buy anything stupid, but I still have to plan carefully,” Brownson said. “I’m not some horrible victim, but no one knows how long we’ll both last.”
Ed still recognizes loved ones, but he shuffles with a cane and recently has lost his ability to play card games or follow his beloved Agatha Christie books on tape, she said.
- 40 percent reported spending 40 hours+ each week providing care
- 17.5 percent reported missing 21 days+ of work in the last year to provide care
- 32 percent reported they could not afford services or did not have insurance
- 50 percent described services in the city as less than satisfactory or poor
- 95.5 percent want a new citywide plan to address Alzheimer’s disease.