My husband forgot appointments, recent events, names and places. He misplaced his keys and reading glasses regularly and needed frequent reminders on how to operate the television remote. He no longer listened to classical music or opera. He failed to recall faces and then colors. Much later, he seemed to have lost his sense of smell. His cognitive abilities became impaired and I noticed changes in his sleep patterns.
Then, he lost the ability to maintain a banking account, could no longer keep track of money and he used his credit card for costly items that he would not have purchased previously. How did I know? Large packages addressed to him were delivered to our house that he had no recollection of ordering. I am talking about large cartons that arrived here by special delivery and when I tried to cancel the purchases I was asked quite correctly; ‘Why does a person suffering from Alzheimer’s still have a credit card?” A good question, but I did not know how to take it away from him without hurting his feelings. Eventually, I came up with an idea and suggested that it might be a good idea to try to manage with one credit card between us and although it took a while, he bought the idea. I had to close his bank account too which took a whole lot of persuasion. But, two days after doing so, he returned to the bank which is not far from home, and opened another account. He also requested a new credit card. The bank informed me immediately of this new development, so I suggested that they allow him to open a new bank account as he would probably not use it. I suggested that they agree to order a new credit card but not follow it through, as I knew that he would forget all about it. He did. I signed that I would take responsibility for any consequences. My husband never asked why the credit card had not arrived. That was the end of that. I made sure to slip money into his wallet. It pained me as he had always been the main breadwinner in our family.
As his caregiver, I had to learn to speak in a way that would get through to him. Yes, I learned to speak Alzheimer’s. I had to find a way to live with this person who was inhabiting the body of the husband I’d lived with for 50 odd years – the man I’d loved for so long. I could not detach myself emotionally so I had to learn to live with who he had become; who he was now. Dementia had stripped his dignity and disrupted our family life.
- an odd-job whiz helped me make the house a place that was workable for him.
- I tried to focus on the skills he still retained.
- I knew that chastising him was not the right thing to do but I as only human. I made a decision to cut out this kind of behavior and praised him for the positive side he exhibited … any moments of success, no matter how small.
- I followed his way of life that had always revolved around humor and found humor wherever I could and even managed to make him smile.
Every year, people all over the world visit doctors to check our hearts, breasts, prostates, eyes and ears but I have never heard of anyone who visits a specialist to check his brain. Surely there must be some kind of test for that most important of organs?
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease and the following is the advice I would like to pass on to caregivers everywhere.
Remember your strengths rather than your weaknesses. When things are bad, repeat this every single day.