Have you ever given thought to what it would be like to care for a person with Alzheimer’s? Not just to know and love them, but to be their only caregiver, as well? Just you, no relatives or friends to pitch in? Maybe a job that claims to understand your situation, but really can’t afford to keep you on the payroll (and insurance) at your current production levels?
Leaving her every morning when I went to work was the most difficult thing, and it got harder every damned day. There truly is no one else for her to speak to or interact with every day. Her dearest friend Joyce lives across the street, but she has her own problems, with a husband in end stage throat cancer. The loneliness and isolation tears and eats at her like a cancer. I would try to call her as frequently as I could, but you can imagine how it looks at work with me walking around on my cell half the day. Of course, she’d call me several times, too, often in tears with the fear and loneliness. I could take quite a while to talk her down, and I would occasionally have to run home (20 minutes each way) to calm her.
Worse were the days when she’d forget how to use her cell phone, or couldn’t find it. Neither was rare. I had a new landline installed for exactly that reason, and put my cell on speed dial with instructions writ large on a note right on the shelf where the phone is kept. Inevitably, though, the panic would prevent her from remembering it. She has even called me, frightened and unable to find the very phone she was calling me with.
I’m currently unemployed. It’s cost me two jobs now, but it’s a gift. I’m home with her, where I belong. She’s FAR happier now, and no longer wracked by the isolation. We go for walks (a dearly loved activity for her), we shop, and we’ve just finished bingeing “The Great British Baking Show” on Netflix (though they only have 3 of the 7 seasons). I belong here with here, almost as much for myself as for her.
We’ve made the change to a fully organic diet, and she’s seen honest and measurable improvements in spatial perceptions (more confident with where she puts her feet and less fear on steps and curbs) and even some clearing in memory; just a few days into the new diet, she used her favorite nickname for me for the first time in several months. I had despaired for ever hearing it again, and there it was, bursting forth from a bright and brilliant smile.
We have so much farther to go, of course, and not all is improvement. It breaks my heart to tell her we need to change her pants again because she had a minor accident overnight, and it makes her feel so ashamed. Helping her figure out how to hold a fork, and fighting back tears when she surrenders and resorts to fingers. Trying so hard to be patient when I have to repeat something for the fifth time because her short-term recall is essentially nonexistent.
But I believe. We believe that the human body, when given the right tools, is completely and universally capable of repairing itself. I have to believe, and I do.
I also believe, without any doubt or qualification, that life happens for us, not to us. This is all a gift, and we will never know the joy of it if we don’t search for it, in faith and in love.