LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The longest day of the year is typically the first day of summer in June. But for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s every day can be the longest day. For one husband and wife living with crippling brain disease, it’s a lesson in being grateful for every day you have together.

Janalee Richards was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at just 54. She asked her husband, Michael, to retire and become her caregiver.

Michael and Janalee Richards and their family.

“I just went into that gear, the protective mode, and just, you know, and then those marriage vows when you know, better or for worse. I had to jump on it,” he said.

And thankfully he did. It’s been seven years and Michael said Janalee today doesn’t always recognize her husband of 31 years.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s stressful every day, 24/7, but it’s under control,” Michael Richards said.

He creates a new playbook each year to help navigate the changes in Janalee’s behavior and he finds comfort in regular outings together as well as their home routine. He stays busy with the details of her daily care.

“I would like for her to have to do puzzles, but she doesn’t have the patience. She has distractions. You know, so I left that alone. But her thing is movies, TV, and kids. She loves dancing, she’ll dance and try to twerk or whatever she’d be doing,”

Michael said he just lets Janalee be herself which is something important he’s learned through the Alzheimer’s Association support groups and other programs.

Family time with their two grown children and grandkids helps keep Janalee engaged and in good spirits.

“She’s not mean, but she can be, but it only lasts two or three seconds,” Michael Richards said.

He said sometimes Janalee is like her old self and he enjoys those moments.

Somehow the long caregiver days for Michael still don’t seem to be long enough. He urges anyone who shows signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia to see a neurologist and get a diagnosis as early as possible.

He suggests involving your family in the care and planning of your loved one.    

If you’d like to sign up and join the longest-day Alzheimer’s event, here’s a link.