The Gradual Grief of Alzheimer's

Robertson McQuilkin reflects on his wife's long battle with Alzheimer's.

It has been 25 years since Alzheimer's began taking hold of Muriel McQuilkin, wife of Robertson McQuilkin, president of Columbia Bible College and its graduate school. As the disease progressed, in 1990, McQuilkin resigned to care for his wife full time. She stopped recognizing him in 1993. At Christianity Today's invitation, McQuilkin wrote two articles about his decision and caring for his wife ("Living by Vows," CT, October 8, 1990, and "Muriel's Blessing," CT, Feb. 5, 1996. On September 20, 2003, Muriel McQuilkin died at the age of 81.

Stan Guthrie, CT's associate news editor, was a graduate student at the school when McQuilkin announced his resignation. Guthrie interviewed McQuilkin, 76, shortly after Muriel's death.

What was your daily routine like, especially toward the end?

I would fix breakfast and then go in and turn on the lights, and she would awaken, although in the last year or two she didn't open her eyes much. Usually in the morning she would open her eyes and then I would feed her. And then of course, after that I had to change and clean her up. If it was nice weather, I would put her in the wheel chair and take her out into the yard for her to sit out there for two or three or four hours. Then lunch. She had to be changed every four hours.

She had excellent health, so I usually had about six hours a day of quiet to do my own writing and business and so forth.

In the evening we would again have supper, and after supper about 9:00 I'd start working on the bedtime routine.

But last summer she began to choke on the food.

It must have been difficult to care for her at that level, almost as if she were a newborn again.

Well, she was not burdensome. She was always lovable and accepted my ministrations, for the most part. ...

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