Seven years ago My wife of 36 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was devastating to find out that, at the young age of 57, Karen had a progressive illness for which there was no cure, only medications to slow the progress for a while. In the beginning there was lots of depression on Karen’s part. Every time she ‘forgot’ or made errors cooking, or ‘goofed’ something up I spent time holding her in bed and consoling her. I reminded her we were partners for life and I would always be here to make up for what she couldn’t do.
We finally put her on antidepressants and the other Alzheimer’s drugs recommended by our neurologist. The antidepressants helped a lot and she seemed to handle her ‘goofs’ better and we learned to joke bout some of them. The joking was always followed by a low point for me because every ‘goof’ was a sign to me she was getting worse and I was right in the middle of watching her change into a different person. It frightened me at times and at other times she was still cute and still herself.
I’d say we managed fairly well the first four years, but slowly the burden on me became more severe. It started with her crashing her car, after which she could no longer drive. I had to take her everywhere or arrange for drivers …a new and often big inconvenience for me. Amazingly I adapted and so did she.
By the fourth year she could no longer cook, do her hair, paint her nails, etc. I started taking over most everything to make sure our life was fairly normal. We still had family dinners that I prepared for and cooked, but I was starting to burn out and lose patience…it just wasn’t the same without her there by my side getting things ready for turkey dinner. I have since given up on this..too much stress.
The past three years have been the hardest on me. In the beginning I was happy and hopeful a cure would be found before it was too late for Karen. Now her Alzheimer’s has progressed and I see no hope. she seems very happy if her needs are met…and I sty to still do things that stimulate her because when I see her happy it make me happy.
Trouble is I am unhappy. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. I feel sorry for myself because I now have to do everything – and I mean everything. I never thought I could wipe my wife’s butt, but I’ve done it. Never thought I could scrub up diarrhea, but I’ve done it. Never thought I’d see urine all over the floor because she couldn’t make it to the bathroom. I could go on and on.
The greatest thing however is that when I go to bed at night my wife of 43 years is still laying right beside me with our little dachshund right in the middle. I want to keep my wife right here with me as long as possible, so, yes, I’ll do the wash, dress her and buy her clothes. I’ll do her hair each day, put on her panties, bra, socks, and help her brush her teeth. I admit I hired someone to come bathe her twice a week (couldn’t deal with that), and, yes, I’ll go to the grocery store and cook all the meals. I have to have my housecleaning lady that comes every two weeks, however, or I would go nuts!!
Now the harsh reality. If it ever becomes too much for me emotionally or financially I will have to do what I need to to qualify for medicaid and put Karen in a nursing home …. not that really scares me!!!.