Editor's note: Meet Marlis Powers—caregiver, grandmother, cancer-survivor. Through an ongoing series of blog posts, Marlis will be sharing the ups, downs and all-arounds of her caregiving journey with the AgingCare community. In this first installment, Marlis introduces herself and her husband, Charlie, whom she is a caregiver for.
Chuck and I moved to a Senior Living complex in New Hampshire from our long-time home in western New York State in 2009.
You will find that I sometimes refer to him as Chuck, sometimes Charlie and occasionally, when I'm upset with him, Charles! You see, he doesn't like to be called Charles. His family always called him Charlie, but then he ended up in Viet Nam – not a good place for a man named Charlie. So his buddies dubbed him Chuck to differentiate him from the Viet Cong.
The name stuck, and I always called him Chuck, until he began showing signs of dementia. It seems that I have reverted to calling this man who, in many ways has become child-like, by his childhood name.
Charlie suffered a mild stroke in 2008, and after several smaller strokes, he has developed dementia.
That, in addition to residual paralysis from an aircraft accident in 1963, has turned the man I met in 1998 into a person who is increasingly dependent on me for his care and sustenance.
His sense of direction was one of the first things to go, so his car keys soon followed. If I were to send him out for a bottle of milk he'd probably end up in California – his driving skills are still good, he just can't find his way.
A Cancer Survivor
As for me, I am a cancer survivor – renal cell carcinoma caused me to lose half of my right kidney in 2008, and I have a knee that may require replacement surgery.
That means that, like many of you, I am wearing out and I am caring for a man who is wearing out even faster. Not fun!
One strategy I use to keep my sanity is by venting through my blogs. I began blogging in August 2012, so I really am a "newbie" at this journalistic form.
The Movie Fan
Charlie loves to watch Western or World War II movies in the evening.
I enjoy the war movies; after all I lived through that era. But, I've never been a cowboy, and Westerns drive me nuts.
I have come to realize that the reason he likes Westerns is because the scenery is nice, and there usually isn't much plot – he gets very confused trying to follow an intricate plot. As for the war movies – well we know how they end, don't we?
My way of coping with the Westerns is to immerse myself in a good book, or open my lap-top and begin blogging.
That annoys him to no end. He wants me to watch the movie so I can explain to him what is happening, and who killed whom. Grrrr!
When he was out west attending Air Force Intelligence school he stopped at a mountainous overlook that looked down on a western movie site. Now, every time he sees a scene with mountains in the background, he tells me" That was filmed right where I stood, honey." He tells me this ten times a night.
I just agree with him, even though the credits have plainly stated that the movie was filmed in Mexico or Canada. It's easier just to agree with a person with dementia than to constantly correct them. You both get frustrated if you waste your time trying to set them straight on unimportant issues.
If you are experiencing stress in your life from coping with a loved one, writing is a good way to release some of that stress. Whether it is just keeping a daily journal, you are serious about turning everyday events into a memoir, or even a great novel, you will find that putting it on paper helps calm you down. Finding a coping mechanism is a key to being a successful caregiver.
And now I'm off to bed. "If you see me in the morning, don't say it's a good morning or I'll shoot ya." (John Wayne as McLintock)