Choosing happiness: Alzheimer’s caregivers eventually connect, fall in love

For years, Frank and Marti watched their spouses gradually disappear into Alzheimer’s disease.

Each caregiver enlisted the aid of HonorHealth Desert Mission Adult Day Healthcare, Frank in 2013 and Marti in 2014. Frank’s spouse, Camille, soon transitioned to Suntree Adult Day Services where she stayed for two years.

Meanwhile, Marti’s spouse, Floyd, attended the Desert Mission program for about eight months. In 2015, when they could no longer be cared for at home, the patients resided in care homes. Floyd died on Dec. 6, 2015; Camille passed away Oct. 1, 2016.

During these challenging years, Frank and Marti attended the Caregiver’s Support Group offered by Desert Mission Adult Day Healthcare at the Cowden Center on the HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center campus. The two shared their stories and listened, providing support and encouragement.

A life full of promises

Even when their caregiving journeys ended, they continued to attend the support group, grieving their losses and healing. Anne Paulus, director of Adult Day Healthcare, told Frank not to overlook Marti at the next caregivers’ luncheon. And she let Marti know that Frank was looking for companionship.

Sure enough, at the next caregivers’ monthly luncheon on Jan. 18, 2017, Frank noticed Marti’s Habitat for Humanity T-shirt and struck up a conversation. He had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity when he lived in Michigan.

Four days later, the two attended an art show where Frank bought Marti a plaque that read “Choose Happiness.”

“I told Marti that after 62 years of marriage, it had been a long time since I’d been on a date,” Frank joked, “and if I got out of line, to swat me.” Marti joked in reply that she had a hammer and wouldn’t hesitate to use it.

As their new lives began to take shape, Frank and Marti did indeed pursue happiness. They went to dinner, saw movies, took drives, attended church, met each other’s families and talked. A lot. They discovered they had much in common and that they enjoyed each other’s company.

“I love his sense of humor,” Marti said.

“Marti’s very social, very active, very involved,” Frank said. “And very nice.”

At ages 89 and 73, life is full again, full of promise and possibilities.

The two were married Sept. 22, 2017, in a church wedding followed by a large reception. After the heartache of caring for spouses with Alzheimer’s, the new couple is embracing life and choosing happiness.

Alzheimer's support story - Frank and Marti

Frank and Marti's wedding