My husband has started to notice that he has lost the memory of big pieces of his life. He gets quite upset. How should I respond?

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He was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago. Before the diagnosis, he made it clear that he didn't want to know if he had ALZ, so we call it ADHD or simply memory problems. We went on a vacation recently, and especially at night he got disoriented. He couldn't picture our house, for example, and thought that he had been married three times,instead of two. That's all kind of normal.

The upsetting part is that he is noticing that he doesn't remember large parts of his past. He has started asking what is wrong with him, and if he should go to see a doctor about it. I answer his questions and assure him I will never leave him, but that sometimes isn't enough to calm him.

Naturally the worst part is that these discussions take place at 1 am or 5 am or 45 minutes before we have to get up!

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Thankfully my sweet husband knows he is not thinking as previously did. He is a brilliant man, very respected and i try to cover for his lack of ability to do simple things. The remote for tv, or operate telephone, and being as he has already completely messed up computer system, and stove etc im having to relax covering up. I try to remember hes still same man. His family has nothing more to do with him but he deserves respect and love
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Angela 11, everyone is different. My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimers two years ago. He immediately took it as a "Cause" and got involved with the Alzheimer's Association. We formed a team for the Alzheimer's Walk, which helps to raise dollars for research. He has done talks with small groups, and other things to help people be aware of the disease, and the need for a cure.
This works for us, but hugs to you and your mother in your situation.
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Jinx, can you think of simpler, short term problems that he can fix?

You might also contact the Cambridge or other local Area Agencies on Aging and/or the Alzheimers Association to ask if they sponsor the Creating Confident Caregivers course, which addresses dementia, alzheimers, and other memory disorders. It's well worth taking, and it's free.

http://www.alz.org/mglc/in_my_community_58958.asp, but this is for the Michigan branch. I couldn't find anything for Cambridge, but there might be a branch in other areas of MA.
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Jeanne, She didn't have any ideas other than comforting him and focusing on his feelings. If she ever says more to me privately, I'll be sure to share it.
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Angela11, The fact that we discussed it with his shrink is the main reason I don't tell him his diagnosis.

The other reason is that a few months ago, I DID tell him! He was totally bummed out, and stayed that way for a few days. Then he forgot why he was feeling bad, and went back to normal. I won't repeat that experiment again. It would be cruel and useless.

Maybe a year ago, he overheard something that led him to think that he had a terminal disease. At that time, I said that he sort of did, and told him it was ALZ. But I assured him he had another twenty years of life. He took that pretty well, but again forgot it very quickly.

I have told our daughter that I would want to know about anything that is wrong with me. Part of it is vanity. "I can do a better job of having ALZ than he can." How stupid is that? Another part is that I might find it interesting to observe as long as I can. Also, I am not entirely opposed to the idea of being dead some day, and free from the trials and toils of this world. But I can't go until I get my affairs in order. It wouldn't be fair to leave her this enormous mess to handle. LOL.
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Jinx, I am happy that he is willing to try a club! He may have some nice men to socialize with, and I guarantee you he'll have nice women flirting with him!

I know what you mean about looking for a "fix" -- it goes with the profession, and the profession probably goes with the personality. It is too bad that your hubby doesn't want to hear the cause named. That was very useful for my husband. And he decided to contribute to a solution by donating his brain to science. That became very important to him. (His brain tissue is now in a brain bank in Florida.) Even with some traits in common, each individual is unique.

Did the shrink have anything to say that might help other caregivers?
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Thanks for your kind and helpful answers. Since this is a new situation, and we were on vacation and short of sleep, I felt comfortable telling him that he would remember in the morning, and he mostly did.

This morning at breakfast, he made a list of what is bothering him, to talk over with his shrink. I attended today's session. We talked about how alarming it is for him, but by his second rereading of the list, he was busy explaining why he doesn't remember things, and how his memory really isn't that bad. This is a behavior that pushes my buttons, but I try to bite my tongue. If denial makes him happier, he's easier to deal with.

Another aspect is that we were both programmers, and used to analysing and fixing problems. His memory loss is a problem for which there is no solution. Even naming the real problem is best avoided. I have to shift to a different mindset when these conversations arise. I also keep hoping that there actually is a magical correct way to fix the problem. Sigh.

This also seems like an omen of worse things to come.

Well, I hope to have him in adult day care soon. They tell me there are some nice men for him to socialize with. Thank God that he is willing to give this "club" a chance.
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I like the idea of overloading filing cabinets.

But unfortunately I DO remember how much chocolate I eat, along with the self chastisement for indulging. If only I could switch the memory wires to forget about the chocolate and remember the broccoli....
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Whew I, too, can't remember a lot of my past only extra special events or world events, so that makes me feel better about my own memory. Loved it whenever my parents will say "remember when you were 5 years old and such & such".... me "ah no".... then they will go into each and every little detail which made me wonder if I had a twin sister years ago that I didn't know about who did these things :P

Jinx, how does hubby react to seeing photos of his past, does that help with recalling his memory? If not, then distract him with something else not related to remembering something.

If I can't remember something I just tell myself that my brain's file cabinets are overfilled so it takes longer to find that piece of information :) My Dad will complain that he can't remember some things, and I will tell him I have that issue, too. It makes him feel better.

Oh, GardenArtist, I can't remember breakfast or lunch, either... but can remember how many Hersey dark chocolate almond nuggets I had yesterday :)
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I understand you concerns totally Jinx4740. I know the present field of thought is to tell patients they have developed Alzheimers, but I will fight tooth and nail to keep that horrid word from my mother's ears. Her health carers know it's my wish and they never speak of Alzheimers. We all call it memory problems. My mum also, like your husband gets anxious because she realizes she's lost huge chunks of memory, it's really hard and sad, there's no easy way but I tend to agree with her and say 'it's awful for you mum to have lost all that memory but I can fill you in on lots that I remember and you can ask me any time'. I will then go down memory lane reminding her of funny or important stories. This is exhausting at times cause she wants to hear the stories in depth. As somebody said above you could try to divert the conversation to something your husband has some memory of. My one consolation is that i can make my mum laugh, she always had a good sense of humour and I milk it for every last drop. Bless you both on your journey.
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