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Monday, 14 September 2009

Alzheimer's: Part 7 – A Day in the Life

By William Weatherstone of The Diesel Gypsy

This is a blow by blow description of one day in my life with Alzheimer’s. A Friday.

Starting time is about 4:30AM. I awoke at the sound of footsteps passing by my bedroom door. (Again) She was on the move.

[NOTE: I can and have always been able to sleep in a truck with the diesel engine running surrounded by other trucks moving around and blowing horns, not counting all the screaming of obscenities to each other, usually about where did you ever learn to drive, etc. etc.]

I still can sleep in a noisy, mechanical environment but have acquired a special sense that has my hearing a thousand times more sensitive. I now am able to sleep with my door open next to my wife’s room, where she starts her wanderings in the night.

I am so aware, subconsciously, of her movements now that no mater how deep a sleep I am in, she could step on a soft feather while passing my door - that to me sounds like an earthquake and sends me rebounding out of bed and after her.

I always approach her with, “Are you just cruising or do you need the toilet?” I make her do the toilet routine while up, which gives me about another two- or three-hour safety zone for sleep (in theory only).

Meanwhile back at the ranch (so to speak)...

My being up at 4:30AM on the days the sitter arrives at 08:00AM pretty well starts my (our) day as I have to dress her, toilet guide and wash her.

Then comes cooking a hot breakfast where after that she wants more sleep. I then guide her back to her bed, tuck her in and then head out to wash the dishes and clean up.

There are times (many) that she is right behind me again and the bed routine starts all over. Perhaps it could be three or four times during the dish washing procedure. When she is finally settled down, I have to prepare lunch.

Lately, all the old food favourites have vanished somewhat and she does not want that menu anymore. The same attitude applies to all her favourite TV shows. Except for one where she demands to see, NCIS. The best part that really wakes her up, and draws attention, is when Ziva (the Israeli Mossad agent on loan) kicks the crap out of the bad guys. I even enjoy that program.

All this has to be completed before 8:00AM when the sitter arrives and I take off for a mental stress assessment (doctor's orders) and have to be back before 10:00AM to relieve the sitter.

I was, a week before the session, given drugs to help curb my anxieties, to calm me down from aggression. It did not work. I was advised that it would take a couple weeks to a month to smooth out my mental stress.

NO GO. After five days of weakness, upset stomach and a couple other nasties, I dumped it and returned the pills to the druggist. I am alive again and not physically feeling too bad. You have to understand that at least someone in the thousands of people cannot tolerate certain drugs. I am in that minority that cannot. Definitely, it is no fault of the medical profession.

After my examination, I had to rush home to relieve the sitter. Fortunately, a second sitter came for the balance of the four hours that I requested but they had a hard time putting together a schedule for this day.

Now, off again to do the shopping as well as stopping into the liquor store for a new supply of my heart medicine (red wine). It also can act as a relaxant, for which I look forward to when necessary (never abused).

Back again to put together lunch for us, and then she is ready for another nap. So the routine begins again. While this is happening, I am preparing for supper. I begin to thaw out a couple chicken breasts to oven bake for supper, and including enough for sandwiches for lunch the following day.

Interruptions still carry on during this procedure. I seem to be in luck when she finally flakes out for at least a full hour, when I grab a glass of wine and head for my computer. The first thing I do is to don the head phones, turn to my CD collection where I put on Diana Krall and her smooth jazz music. It truly relaxes me while I try to put my experiences down in print.

Then just before supper, I escort her to the toilet and then the feeding frenzy begins. Before I can finish she is headed back to bed, where I follow and guide her to the throne room again. (Where she accumulates all that liquid amazes me and puts me to shame in the volume department.)

Putting her back to bed again, I resume my supper which of course is cold again. I must be doomed to not having a hot meal ever again.

When all is done, I start the cleanup, dishes to be washed, food leftovers to be refrigerated, while being invaded again and again by my drifting, wonderful, wandering wife. After about an hour and a half, I finally complete the cleanup.

After settling down again at the TV or PC, hoping for a few moments alone, I will not have to mention the next hour or so of happenings, as it is just repetition.

A few of those trips, I guide her to the bathroom before tucking her into bed again (just for safety reasons).

I must add here that each time I feed her and she goes to bed, I make her remove her false teeth as she sleeps on her back most of the time and I am afraid that the plates getting loose with wear may drop and choke her. Her glasses have to be removed as she may roll over in bed and damage or bend them.

I have a white paper on her side table to set the glasses on so as can be seen readily. I have instilled into her to set them on the white paper, which she will. There is a flowery patterned cover on the dresser which makes it hard to find things (glasses) so the white paper makes discovery a snap.

Every day her strength weakens and she is tired all the time, which makes me believe that there is some other unknown problem involved as well.

I always force her to get up by 8:00PM and make her stay up till at least 9:00PM just to get her tired more for sleeping. She will immediately dispute it and head for bed again. When that happens I threaten her with no ICE CREAM tonight. A quick u-turn and a sit down in her big chair works every time.

Off to the bathroom again, into the sack again and the routine all night starts to repeat itself. I'm up again because of drifting, from midnight on - as history repeats itself.

[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

Comments

Bless you heart!

On a personal note, my favorite show is NCIS and I love ice-cream too. You and your wife are now my buddies, sending you good thoughts.


William,

I don't envy you your life right now, but I do admire your wife's choice of husband years ago. She is so fortunate to have you to help her through these difficult times.

You are a wonderful husband and I am sure that deep inside her she knows that and appreciates your love and concern...

Check with your doctor, but I have been told that if you hang a picture or curtain over the door she won't leave the room.

Hugs to you from here.....

I am exhausted just reading about your day. The government should provide a sitter for one 24 hour period each week so you can have a day of rest. I really don't know how you keep going, but bless you for doing so.

I had a neighbor whose wife had brain damage and he did exactly the same things you are doing until she finally died. I admire men like you so very much because they are rare.

My dad suffered as you do, before finally finding a place in residential care for my mother. He felt guilty as hell I know, but he was dying of cancer and simply hadn't the strength anymore. My wife has MS so I couldn't cope with both (and lived 400 miles away). She finally died of pneumonia and he went three weeks later. I think he was only holding on for her.

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