It has been a trying week with my husband Charlie. All weeks are trying when dementia is involved, but this one seems to have been worse than usual.
Charlie has become obsessed with his teeth. Two weeks ago, he went to the dentist for $750 in dental work (thank goodness for dental insurance). Then 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 out to the curb. I recently changed companies so we would have weekly pickups instead of every two weeks, in the hopes that it would make the job easier and less confusing for him. Every day we still have the garbage discussion.
If only I could put everything down the garbage disposal!
Last Saturday, I had made plans to see a movie at the local theater with my daughter. One hour before it was time for me to leave, Charlie came out of his bedroom with his glasses in hand. He had broken the nose pad, rendering them unwearable. 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. I’d do anything to make this sweet man happy and keep him safe.
It has always been Charlie’s job to keep the bird feeders filled. We just put them out for the season last week, and I 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 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 bird feeder. Once he got there, he couldn’t figure out how to manage handling the walking stick, the scoop and the 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 leave this chore up to him instead of just doing it myself. The reason is that Charlie is over six feet tall and has everything in and around our house on skyhooks. I’m only 5'5'' and I can’t reach ANYTHING. I can see that this is yet another problem I need to resolve.
It is so hard to watch this brilliant, capable, gentle man lose all of his former abilities. In spite of all of his struggles, though, he has maintained his pleasant demeanor. For that, I am grateful.
I hear of dementia patients who become angry and combative. I pray that I never see the day this happens to Charlie. It would be so out of character for him, and he would be mortified to know that he had lost control of his behavior.
But it does happen. My loving aunt is in her nineties and has dementia as well. She is now throwing things at her caregivers and causing her family a great deal of distress.
In light of all of that we’ve been through, all that we experience on a daily basis, and all the unknown challenges that lie ahead, all I can say is this: God bless the caregivers.