God Bless the Caregivers

It's been a trying week with Charlie. All weeks are trying, but this week seems to have been worse than usual.

He is obsessed with his teeth. He had a dentist appointment two weeks ago ($750.00 – thank God for dental insurance) and the other day he told me he needed a dentist appointment! When I explained that he was just there and the dentist completed all the work that needed to be done, he didn't believe me.

Every day we go through the same discussion over and over.

Then there is the recurring question about which day the garbage has to be carried to the curb. I changed companies so we would have recyclable pickup every week instead of every two weeks, hoping that would resolve his confusion and make the job easier for him. Every day we have the garbage discussion.

If only I could put everything down the garbage disposal!

Yesterday, I had made plans to see a movie at the local theatre with my daughter. One hour before it was time to leave, Charlie comes out of his bedroom, glasses in hand. He had broken the nose pad, rendering the glasses un-wearable. Since it was Saturday, I knew I couldn't expect him to go without glasses until Monday, so I cancelled my plans and took him to the optician's office for a quick fix.

I really didn't mind missing the movie – anything to make this sweet man happy and keep him safe.

It has always been his job to keep the bird feeders filled. We just put the feeders out for the season last week – sure hope the bears are hibernating. The large feeder was empty this morning so Charlie decided he needed to fill it, in spite of our first snowfall being fresh on the ground. He put on his boots, grabbed his walking stick and a scoop of feed and started out the door.

His mobility problems are always a challenge, but on this snowy, icy day it was just plain dangerous. He hung close to the side of the house for as long as he could, then headed across the lawn to the feeder. Once at the feeder, he couldn't figure out how to manage handling the walking stick, scoop and feeder at the same time. I had to open the door and explain to him how to do it without losing his balance.

The fact that his brain couldn't figure out this simple task brought tears to my eyes.

You may wonder why I am not doing this chore instead of leaving it up to him. The reason is that, six-foot three-inch tall Charlie has everything in and outside this house on skyhooks. I'm five-foot five-inches and I can't reach ANYTHING.

I can see that this is another problem I need to resolve. The answer is probably a weekly visit from my five-foot ten-inch daughter to fill the bird feeders.

It is so hard to watch this brilliant, capable, gentle man lose all of his former abilities. So far, in all of his struggles, he has maintained his pleasant demeanor.

I hear of dementia patients who become angry and combative. I pray I never see the day that this happens to Charlie. It would be so out of character and he would be mortified to know that he had been reduced to the point of losing control of his behavior.

But it happens. My loving ninety-something aunt with dementia is now throwing things at her caregivers and causing her family a great deal of distress.

All I can say is, God bless the caregivers.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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