Vicki Bartholomew started a support group for wives who are caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s disease because she needed that sort of group herself.

“My husband’s still living, and now I’m in an even more difficult situation — I’m married, but I’m a widow,” she says.

These women draw the shades and open up to each other in ways they can’t with their lifelong friends.

The breaking point sneaks up on even the most committed caregiver, say Alzheimer’s advocates, especially as the nights grow more sleepless. Alzheimer’s patients can tend to pace, or wake up their partner every few minutes. They can even become violent. Or, perhaps worse, they can leave the house.

“There’s a lot of … glory given to the whole idea of someone being long-suffering and staying at home and giving up their life, basically, to care for their loved one,” Simpkins says. “It makes it harder for people who can’t do that.”

Simpkins tries to stop by to see her husband every day. But it’s a wicked kind of blessing, she says, that when she misses a visit, Joe no longer notices.

Listen to the episode on NPR’s Morning Edition.