Roy reflects on fond memories, surrounded by pictures of his family inside his Boaz home.

By Malarie Allen | Public Relations Specialist

When words failed because of Alzheimer’s disease, Roy and Catherine Shirley’s love manifested through devoted care.

During 59 years of marriage, Roy and Catherine accompanied each other through careers, raising two boys, dealing with health issues, and the adventure of grandchildren. They purchased an RV after retirement. They enjoyed the freedom and spontaneity it offered, sometimes taking off across the country on a whim.

This picture of Catherine when she was younger hangs in the couple’s home.

“We had our ups and downs, but we grew together,” Roy said of their life. “She was a special woman to me. She changed my life. As intelligent as she was, I don’t know why she picked me.”

A few years after retirement, Catherine began to show signs of dementia. She was ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

In the later stages of Catherine’s life, she needed increasing amounts of help with daily living. She no longer recognized her husband or her children. Eventually, doctors instructed Roy not to leave her alone for her own safety. He needed someone to stay with her just to visit his own backyard.

One of Roy’s favorite photos of he and his beloved “Cat.”

Still, his love and dedication did not wane. Even when she could not fully comprehend or reciprocate his words of affection, Roy demonstrated love for his precious “Cat” by gently helping her with basic tasks, like bathing, dressing, and eating.

As caring for Catherine became Roy’s primary focus, Shepherd’s Cove helped ease some of the burdens so Roy could focus on nurturing his wife as only a husband can during her final months.

Twice a week, a nurse came to the Shirley’s home to check Catherine’s vital signs, address any of Roy’s questions and concerns, and ensure Catherine’s medications were filled. Bringing personalized care right to her own home eliminated the need for many doctor visits, which became quite difficult as Catherine’s disease progressed. When her medications ran low, the nurse personally called the pharmacy to refill them. Although it may seem a small matter, not having to worry about medications was one more burden lifted from Roy’s shoulders.

“It was a miracle,” Roy said of the assistance he received through hospice. “The nurse was amazing.”

When Catherine moved to a nursing home, Shepherd’s Cove worked with nursing home staff to continue the same personal, compassionate care.

After Catherine died, Shepherd’s Cove had the pleasure of caring for Roy through grief support services. At the encouragement of bereavement social worker, Amanda Hollingsworth, Roy began attending grief support groups. There he found a fellowship like no other with others who were also going through a season of grief. Even though the group no longer meets officially, the bond they formed is so strong that many of them still have lunch together periodically. Roy said he is thankful he decided to try it.

“It was just amazing,” he said.

Are you or a loved one dealing with a life-limiting illness? Let us help lift some of that burden. Call us at 256-891-7724 to see how we can help.