“They call it the ‘long-goodbye’ disease,’ but I think that means goodbye is a long way off and there’s a lot of living to do between now and the end,” said Andy Rachelski, husband of Mary Rachelski, who is living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Andy and Mary reside at Meramec Bluffs, a Lutheran Senior Services Life (LSS) Plan Community in Ballwin, Mo.
“I want to give people hope. Don’t stop living just because of a diagnosis,” said Andy.
Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016. Since then, Andy has taken on the role of researcher, exploring ways to improve Mary’s life.
“I’m a lifelong learner so I have tackled this as a project,” said Andy. He has spent a great deal of time studying nutrition and how it affects cognition. Not only have they replaced processed foods with fresh foods, they also have been experimenting with time-restricted eating. “Putting yourself in step with your body and how it processes food makes a huge difference in your health,” said Andy. He has seen immense benefits from changing their approach to eating.
“We’re in our 59th year of marriage. We are about living a quality life in our remaining years. The only way to do that is to cooperate with our bodies and give our bodies what they are looking for,” said Andy. “We grew up in the 40s and 50s and both had parents feeding us out of cans. We started buying whole foods and raw vegetables. Mary told me, ‘I had no idea vegetables could taste this good!’”
Living at a Life Plan Community like Meramec Bluffs has been a great fit for Andy and Mary, removing the burdens of home maintenance so they can focus on meditation, sleep hygiene, and one another.
“We are proud to be a community where we support our residents living life to the fullest with joy and dignity,” said Lynne Spriggs, Executive Director of Meramec Bluffs.
Finding new perspectives to approach life’s challenges is also key for families of people living with Alzheimer’s. Symptoms like paranoia can be especially hard to manage. Paranoia can manifest as fear that people are stealing from them or that they are being deceived. Andy said that at first, he managed this aspect by reminding himself that it wasn’t Mary talking, it was the disease.
However, Andy had a recent epiphany. “Jesus suggested that we love our enemies. I realized, I’m making the disease my enemy. A light switch clicked on in my brain – if I love my enemy and I love Mary, I have to shift my thinking. Whether it’s the disease or Mary talking to me, all I’ve got to do is love them both.”
Andy said that after that moment, he decided to no longer use the term “disease” and instead use “condition.” “We have a condition here. We apply a lot of love and humor to our days – laughing our way through stuff that comes up,” he said.
“We’ve been together nearly 60 years – I know this girl pretty well.”