Number of men caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia more than doubled in last 15 years

By Vikki Ortiz Healy

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 28 2012 5:51 p.m. MST

All the while, he never stopped seeing her, he said, as the woman he fell in love with: a brilliant doctor, a tennis champion, a loving mother of their three children, a creative artist who filled their home with homemade chandeliers and other elaborate projects.

"This is a person you love," Lerner said. "You're not going to abandon somebody you love after 60 years."

The couple has moved in with their son and his wife in Berwyn, Ill. Ruthie, who is bedridden, fades in and out of consciousness. Hospice caregivers have taken over most of her needs after doctors told the family her days are numbered.

Herbert Lerner fills his time now by watching old Super 8 films of their family. Ruthie in her white bathing suit swimming with the children in Wisconsin. Ruthie walking through the beautiful gardens she used to keep. Ruthie playing guitar.

He doesn't take his eyes off the screen, even though he has seen the film countless times.

"I'm reliving all the wonderful experiences we had," he said. "It feels like it was just yesterday."

Then he walks over to his wife's bed and searches for her face, which is buried in a pillow.

"Ruthie, would you like a kiss?"

The hospice nurse helps him to lower the bed's side railing, so he can plant a peck squarely on her lips.

In a rare moment of lucidity, she responds to her husband.

"Wowwwww."

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