Alzheimer’s caregivers often suffer in secret

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Nearly every day, Kathy Eslinger takes her lunch break and drives to Whitehall Manor. Her mother recognizes her but doesn’t remember her name.

Eslinger combs her mother’s hair. She sings to her. And when the 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient yells in fright, Eslinger cries.

“You never know one moment to the next how it’s going to be,” she said Friday, fresh from a good visit with her mother, Rose Doddy.

For family members, Alzheimer’s is as frustrating a disease as it is heart-breaking. Those emotions played out last week in the tragic story of Charles Snelling, a prominent Republican and lifelong patron of the Lehigh Valley. He was found dead Thursday, along with his ailing wife, Adrienne, in their Upper Macungie Township home.

If the Snelling family’s suspicions are true — that he ended her life and his own in anguish over her declining state — his death is a chilling portrait of the stresses saddling caregivers.

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