June 25, 2017 § Leave a comment
When you have dementia, all milestones are sad ones. My dear husband and I always observed the jewish tradition of yahrzeit to honor our parents memory on the anniversary of their death by reciting the kaddish, a mourners prayer, in the synagogue and donating charity in their names. Sometimes we burned a special long burning candle, too, marking the solemn occasion.
My dear husband cannot attend group events where he cannot get up and walk about at will. So Friday night I attended services by myself and I stood up for Dorothy when her name was read aloud from the bema. I stand for you too, my dear husband, because you don’t remember Dorothy was your mom. I am so grateful that I held her hand on her journey. She always smiled when she saw me!
June 10, 2017 § 2 Comments
On April 6, 2017, I placed my husband in the memory care unit of an assisted living residential facility, The Kensington in Falls Church, VA, about 30 minutes from our home.
This was the most difficult decision of my life. It was not in the plan. Although I had taken care of my dear husband for more than six years, it did not prepare me for the progression of dementia-related symptoms that intensified just this year. If I thought that last year was difficult, 2017 was unimaginable with both my husband and I not sleeping through the night and trying to function in a haze the next day.
The effects of dementia are profound as it steals one’s personality and then, its entire being. I see the man I married when I come to visit, he sees me walking towards him and begins shouting “she’s here, she’s here, come here, c’mon, it’s my wife”, with tears in his eyes, I get a big kiss. In all other ways, he’s gone. My smile communicates everything he wants to know, that he’s still loved. Any other words have little meaning and conversation is impossible. You will think that he looks happy and his world is very simple. We hold hands and he tells me how happy he is to see me, his gratitude shines through. I fight back my own feelings of loss and tears, where is my partner, my mate? I long to talk with my husband and tell him we’re okay.
The plan was to care for my husband at home with 24 hour home care aides, forever. His behavior was overwhelming when he walked around, in the middle of the night, hallucinating with eyes squeezed shut while chanting loudly “yes, yes, right, right” and not responding to his name or anything else. Some nights, while naked and incontinent, he would wake me pleading “what should I do?” One night, he fell after the aide accompanied him to the bathroom and back to bed twice. The third time, he fell and cut open his forehead with the edge of his granite sink counter just missing damage to his eye.
When his doctor viewed my phone videos of his trance-like walking, she told me that I could no longer keep him safe at home, to protect him from falls and stair cases to lower floors. She recommended The Kensington Falls Church where she visited patients frequently and promised to look after my husband.
It is a beautiful place, looks like a small hotel and his lock-down unit is a comfortable place to live. My husband is calm and manageable on different medications, monitored by nursing staff.
Sitting on the edge of the bed in his new room he told me that he understands. The Director said that he knows that I couldn’t keep him safe in our home anymore. He can’t explain what he knows intuitively but I see that he is living his life peacefully, that’s all I can hope for as we learn to live apart.