Growing and Changing

Alzheimer’s Disease is a stern teacher, whether in marriage or in any significant relationship.  It exacts honesty about your own feelings and demands that you recognize the difference in “reacting” and “responding” to a myriad of situations if you are to preserve any semblance of peace.  I had to accept that I could not change what was happening to my husband, to our relationship or to our lives.  I could not explain away his faulty memory or lack of judgment.  Neither could I ignore it or the consequences.  It was fortunate that I realized the need to have his Power of Attorney while he was still capable of understanding, or we might not have survived his increasing inability to manage finances.

Perhaps incidents such as learning to hide winter clothes in the summer and removing dirty clothes as soon as he got ready for bed each night were disconcerting at first, but this disease has a way of putting into perspective things that are easily controlled.  It was far more difficult to let go of things in our marriage that had been troubling problems before the onset of Alzheimer’s.  It was not possible to continue to carry around in my head and heart unresolved marital issues after realizing that there would never be resolution.  That was, at first, too depressing and overwhelmed my attempts to understand the vicissitudes of living with my husband’s Alzheimer’s.  I could not bear the grief of losing him and continue to suffer over unsolved problems that had existed before this disease began to control our lives.  I learned to let go of the left-over marital issues and deal instead with the issues of daily living as they now presented themselves.

My need to have a place for my husband to spend his days while I worked after he no longer did created an entirely new

Adult day care kept my husband busy and happy while I worked.

set of realities for us, in the form of adult day care.  I had no idea that he would benefit from such a setting other than being safe and in the care of professionals who knew how to manage persons with dementia.  It became a huge lesson for me to learn that he equated his daily presence there with going to work, that he was in a stimulating and accepting environment, and that he now had new “friends.”  Adult day care was a meaningful and significant experience, allowing me to continue to work and to keep him at home instead of looking for a residential placement.  I cannot stress enough how much I changed by seeing the benefits of adult day care for both of us.  It was like a breath of fresh air.

Accepting special holidays, anniversaries and birthdays with gratitude that we were at least together, even if I were the only one who knew the meaning or the dates on the calendar, was a process that came after going through them with feelings of heartache.   You may choose to feel disenfranchised or to feel love.  Love is, in the end, far more important than any calendar or any disease.

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