The story of Charles D. Snelling is a sad lesson in how caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming — even for those with the best of intentions. And yes, even for those who adored the person who contracts this disease.
Back in December, Snelling wrote an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times about his experience living and taking care of his wife Adrienne, who had Alzheimer’s. They had been married for six decades, and had a happy life. But their lives changed when she got dementia.
Snelling wrote a 5,000-word essay about how he was coping with and managing Adrienne’s disease. He described his care-taking of his wife as “not sacrificial” and “not painful,” according to The Times.
But apparently, things took a turn for the worse: On Thursday Snelling killed his wife and himself.
The Times reported Saturday that Snelling’s family had released a statement to The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., about the deaths. The bodies of Snelling and his wife, both 81, were found in their home in east Pennsylvania. Snelling shot himself, The Times reported.
The family, in its statement, said that Snelling has acted “out of deep devotion and profound love,” according to The Times.
No one can know exactly what was going on in Snelling’s mind. But it appears he ultimately became overwhelmed, hopeless, or both, and saw no solution other than to end his life and that of his wife.
The lesson to be learned is that as much as you may think you can keep a relative or spouse with Alzheimer’s home and care for them, sometimes it’s best to let the professionals bear those responsibilities.
So I grieve with the Snelling family. And I advise those who think they can take care of a loved one with progressing Alzheimer’s disease 24/7, think long and hard about that choice.