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Monday, 27 July 2009

Alzheimer's: Part 2

By William Weatherstone of The Diesel Gypsy

It has only been a few days since finishing the first page of this project, but they have added experiences that have emerged since then.

I have, in the meantime, settled down somewhat since then. I have learned to control my emotions considerably. I have tried to see some humour in these events. After all, if you give up or lose your sense of humour, you might just as well pack it in now, grab the nearest shovel and dig a grave for yourself.

My wife has these fantasies that she gets out of the blue. She will sneak up on me while I am on the computer and hit me with a question from outer space that has no real rhyme or reason.

I have found that if I stop doing whatever it is at the moment and pay 100 percent attention, I will with a smile answer in a humorous mood. Rather than go away in a pout, she smiles, calls me a silly ass and returns to her bed or TV. Both of us have avoided a possibly stressful confrontation.

Since I have become the official leader of our gang (a gang of two), I took it upon myself to start going through all of our cupboards, dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets and china cabinets. I found a lot of stuff that, in our present-day situation, we will never get another chance to use.

First, there is the china cabinet. We have a very expensive chrystal set that was accumulated piece by piece over the first ten years which, you might say, has collected nothing but dust. It looks great, but for the money it has no function. At least not until now.

I have taken all the cheap, crappy glassware from the kitchen and replaced it with the chrystal. It is now getting some functional use. Great stuff to drink from, even just as a water glass.

After all, if we leave it to someone, what will they do with it? Usually pack it away and forget it or even sell it. This generation does not seem to have the same interests anymore. With the short amount of time left for us, use it and enjoy it. After al,l it is yours.

I notice also that when she goes to lie down after supper while I clean up the dishes, that she will sneak a peek at me from down the hall. I have no idea why. All my life, while on the road I was in a lot of unsavory places and the sense that I used and honed was my peripheral vision. While I was looking straight ahead, I could also see what was going on around me with out being noticed.

I have learned that if I apply that same system to doing the dishes and can also see that I am being watched, I will ignore her and she will go away thinking that she had secretly seen what I was doing and that I was still there. It saved a confrontation and I was still relaxed. (That was another point in my favour.)

In the last week or so, her mind has deteriorated immensely. The question repetition has increased tenfold. By the mid-afternoon, I am sometimes at my wit's end. I try to lie down for a few moments rest and finally flake out. Within two or three minutes she comes in and asked me if I am awake while shaking me.

After two or three sessions like this, within 15 minutes, my temper begins to rise. I am up again looking for some new chore to busy myself and slow my anxiety down.

In my case, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I have a young cousin (young to me, in her mid 50s) whom we took under our wing when she was 15. She had no father and her mother had very little in the way of worldly goods. She was outfitted and helped until she got married and we gave them their honeymoon trip.

Out of the blue, I get a call that she is coming to stay with us for a month or two. She has a boatload of experience. She looked after her mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s from the early beginning to the end.

Fortunately for me she would not take no for an answer. I guess that she feels it to be payback time. I have met a caregiver in the same predicament as I, but without the generous assistance that I will be receiving. That person has become a borderline mental case and still has a long way to go.

I must say this again, that I had no idea that this horrendous disease was so prevalent until I was involved in it myself. It is just like never noticing a blue Ford car until you own one and then you begin to see them every day. It’s always there, you just don’t see it.

I am looking forward to tomorrow when our guest will arrive and hopefully will help relieve the stress around here. Time will tell and any progress (good or bad), I will tell.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


My heart goes out to you in this situation. Mine is similar with my husband. To call it the "long good-bye" is deceiving. Since those words from Nancy Reagan, I always had a vision of Ronnie sitting quietly with a blank smile on his face as his awareness of the world around him fades away. As I have learned, that vision is naive and inaccurate. It leaves out the truth of the moment to moment trials to our own sanity as we continue to cope the best that we can. Truly a horrific disease.

It sounds as though you are handling this difficult situation in the very best ways. After a total of 8 years trying to care for my mother (now 92)with dementia, I gave up and left her care to my brother, who has control of her assets. I blogged about my last visit to spend time with her here:

It does not get any easier. Take all the help you can get. My prayers are with you.

Patience is a virtue. Alzheimer's is a test of patience. My wife, bless her, is fine. It is I that have the problem. My short term memory is being erased. Tests and scans etc. indicate that the cause is more likely to be demenitia than Alzheimers. I don't give a twit what they call it. I don't remember yesterday. Talk about frustration. It's worse than a toothache. Interestingly, my long term (childhood) memories seem to still be there. It's kind of fun to sit and write short essays about incidents 70 years ago. Anyway, please provide your wife with the gift of patience. She probably doesn't know that she repeats things, and she probably is frustrated not being able to remember. It's not a picnic for her either.


Don't forget, she probably qualifies for day care if you have one near you. You probably qualify for an assistant who will come in several times a week to give you a break. Meals on Wheels? That was a life saver for us when we were Duck's caretakers. I'm so sorry she is fading away with this truly awful disease.

Boy, this is hard for me to read. It takes me right back to where I was a few years ago with my husband. Let me mull this over for a while, and I'll try to come back with something that I hope will help a bit.

I just watched that wonderful movie, IRIS, for the second time. The scene where John loses it with her, telling her he hates her, is so poignant. Iris does, as you indicate, repeat questions endlessly.

This is a disease that is much harder on the caretaker than on the patient. My heart goes out to you both. Take care of yourself.

How lucky your wife is to have you!
Enjoy the crystal.
- Mary

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