I found this post on Mark Wheeler’s “Seven Spheres” blog. I’m forever reading about all the facets of this huge umbrella under which we live — dementia. I grasp at any straw. The fact is that Peter is nearly 77, set as solidly in his ways as if he were cast in cement, and stubborn to boot. I’d love to try the methods described in this article, but I don’t think he’d go along with it, nor would I have the strength or patience to keep prodding. But by reblogging Wheeler’s post here, I hope at least some of my caregiving followers can glean help from his words and the research behind them.
The other morning we went to a favorite spot, Our Daily Bread, for coffee and pastries. While I waited for Peter to finish drooling over the cases of beautiful cakes and cookies, I watched a man about my husband’s age wandering alone near the cashier’s line. He kept his eyes on a woman at a table across from ours, and finally he made his way towards her.
After we finished Peter said, “I could eat another one, couldn’t you?” I ignored him, as I always do, and he laughed, as he always does.
We exited near the table where the man I’d noticed earlier sat quietly. The woman, obviously his wife, stood behind him, arms extended over his shoulders, slicing a croissant into manageable bites. She never stopped chatting with her friend, and he never seemed to notice he was being helped. She was doing for him what she’d probably done for their children when they were toddlers.
I thought, how lucky we are that Peter is still able to help himself, most of the time, so far.
Header photo: Butterfly visit.
Peter could not remember how to do the simplest of jobs, he was grumpy because I was “telling him what to do,” and I was grumpier because I had to repeat myself endlessly. Meanwhile nothing got done.
Besides, it was an ugly windy day, completely unlike what the weather forecaster predicted.
Late in the afternoon, Peter came to me and asked, “Is there anything else I can do wrong?”
He had a plaintive smile, and of course I melted. “I’m sorry I’ve been so grouchy,” I said.
“No, you haven’t, don’t even say that,” he said. He wrapped me in one of his increasingly rare hugs.
“But you didn’t do anything ‘wrong,'” I said, “you just didn’t do anything.” He loves it when I jab him.
He laughed and danced around the kitchen like an elf. “Ya got me!” he said, and everything was alright again.
Header photo: Wildfire damage in Wyoming, 2011.
About a year after my husband was officially diagnosed I discovered a big error in our checking account. Since I almost never wrote checks it was a double whammy — I hadn’t made the mistake, but I knew who had. Quicker than I could subtract what had been added, the bill-paying and taxes-doing landed in my lap.
I’d always relied on Peter, so good with numbers and so logical, to take care of everything involving money matters, never my forte by any stretch. Until that day I had no inkling that he’d lost those skills. Taking over those tasks was no laughing matter for me, a words person. People laugh when I say, “I don’t do numbers,” but I don’t…didn’t.
Now I do.
I found a CPA to help with the taxes, and son-in-law Martin set up automatic bill paying to ease things for me. This created suspicion, a common dementia symptom, in Peter’s mind. He did not like that I had commandeered the checkbook. He didn’t trust “automatic” and, worse, he didn’t trust me, with good reason — my own bookkeeping history before we were married was abysmal. It was months before he was even moderately comfortable with the idea that I had taken over his job and that the checkbook was no longer his domain. He still doesn’t understand that the need for anyone to write checks is all but gone.
I’d write a check for any amount if I could reverse Peter’s mental decline.
He had always been in charge and suddenly he wasn’t. Not easy to deal with. Now he’s forgotten there are even any bills to pay, taxes to file, or investments to manage. And I’d never been in charge of such matters, but now I am. Not easy to deal with either. I wanted to scream and sometimes, oftentimes, I do. Or I go to the basement and throw sneakers at the wall.
He didn’t miss a beat. “That’ll be ten dollars, please,” he said.
Header photo: Graceful anemones, Montreal Botanical Gardens, 2010