Tag Archives: advice

A “Resurrection” of Memories

22 Sep

This summer offered me the special opportunity to be with loving friends for a week in Vermont.  The weather was beautiful, our environment picture-perfect, and the hospitality genuine, fun and loving.  I traveled with a friend who had lost her husband to Cancer one year ago.  Together, we chatted for 7-hours on the train going north and every day of our visit in New England, as well as our return trip on the train.  We never tired of conversation and seemed to focus so much of our discussion on our husbands.

In our exchange at the beginning of our trip, we focused on our feelings of sadness of the loss of our partners.  Hers, of course, as the physical loss of her husband to Cancer and mine, the mental loss of my spouse to Alzheimer’s.  No matter what our situations, we both felt the same grief and ache of losing our companions forever and we fully understood each other.   Seven hours of travel north was a gift for both of us to openly share what only the two of us could fully understand.   As the week advanced, however, I noticed our focus began to change.  We began to recall happy stories about our husbands, their habits, their expressions and memories of our travels with them.  Suddenly, our talk was filled with happiness, smiles and laughter.

It was not until I came home that I realized, for the first time in a long time, I was able to remember Ernie as he used to be.  Ernie came alive in my thoughts and even in my dreams. I could mentally see him during the healthier, good times. How comforting this was for me!  I pulled photos of our trips together during the good years and placed them around my home to remind me.  My counselor called this ability the resurrection — the ability to look past the sadness and pain of the more recent years of illness to the memories of the happy years.   For me, Ernie seemed to come back to life!

I have worried that my memories of my Ernie would be only of these last 6+ challenging years with his Alzheimer’s. Now, as I continue to live through Ernie’s decline with his disease, I work on replacing my sadness with a past happy memory of joy, laughter and love between us. I put a picture on my dresser of him laughing and I go back to that moment, that place, that feeling of joy that we both felt.   I am thankful to have the awareness that I CAN resurrect the good times and memories of Ernie as he really was and I know that that is what he would want me to do.

Advertisements

“I’m happy, happy…”

25 Apr
Ernie and I were asked to be interviewed for both a radio and 
television program for NPR - WHYY in Philadelphia last week.  
I was willing to do the interview but wondered how Ernie would 
communicate under his Alzheimer's condition.  Would the mike 
or the camera scare him? What would he say?  How much would he 
understand about what was going on? Would he say something that
would be inappropriate?
I was pleasantly surprised to find how comfortable and 
confident he was! 
I am not sure he really understood what was going on, 
but he openly shared his 
comments and laughed, teared up, and several times 
reached across the camera to tap my nose in an affectionate way.  
This very dignified gentleman who had difficulties showing his 
emotions for so many years now proudly shared his feelings -- 
for all the world to see!
Ernie lives in the moment, appreciates the small things, 
doesn't sweat the "small stuff" and 
continues to say,  "I'm happy, happy."  
Isn't that something we all can learn from?

To listen to Maiken Scott's WHYY interview on aging, go to:
http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/homepage-feature/item/37466-
living-with-dementias-costs-financial-and-otherwise&Itemid=1 

The Value of Feeling Valued

9 Apr

For our companions with memory loss, the ability to accomplish simple, every-day tasks becomes increasingly more challenging.   Asking our partners to do the easiest of chores often gets misinterpreted by them and done in odd ways that we can not comprehend.

I found that easy directions like, “Honey will you take your dirty dish to the sink?” could lead to my husband heading with his dish to the bathroom, garage, or putting it in a kitchen cabinet or the freezer!  He always felt he was accomplishing the task and saw no wrong while  I, too many times, got angry and scolded him for such silly behavior.  My reprimand, in turn, caused his lashing out at me and throwing child-like tantrums.   I realized that the frustrations existed for both of us and, too often, led to stressful clashes.  During these tense moments, no words could seem to bring resolution.   After many skirmishes over such issues, I have learned to remain unflappable — reminding myself that it is not he that is at fault, it is the disease.  By practicing patience, silence, and positive body language, I find less stress for both of us.  (I now simply remove the soiled plate from the freezer, say nothing, and go on with life as if it were normal!)

Still, my husband continues to ask, Can I help?  I have learned to say, Yes, and to give him simple chores that I feel he can handle. The tasks I assign to him include: drying dishes; folding the wash; putting linens in the closet;  sorting socks or rearranging a drawer.  Sometimes, I create a simple, unnecessary task that still helps give him a sense of responsibility. Whatever the outcome,  I make it a point to compliment him on a job well-done without scrutiny or judgement.  Not only does this new practice allow more individual time for me to accomplish my tasks at hand, it supports Ernie’s desire to help and gives him a feeling of value.   I have found that with this change in my behavior, we can work well together with less frustration.

We must not overlook the value of our loved one’s need to feel indispensable, accomplished and appreciated.   He/she already is aware of  the personal loss in abilities that were once possible.  What a difference it can make for our partners to still feel a sense of need and value in our lives!

Married to Alzheimer’s, Living and Coping with a Partner with Memory Loss

25 Mar

Welcome to my blog: Married to Alzheimer’s, Living and Coping with a Partner with Memory Loss

My name is Margo and I am married to a wonderful man who was stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease (A.D.) about five years ago.  I have an MSW degree and had a healthy second career in the teaching and corporate training/coaching fields.  My husband, Ernie, had a reasonable retirement on which we vacationed and lived a comfortable life.   All seemed to be going well until an uninvited stranger silently crept into our home, our marriage, and our lives and created emotional challenges like I had never faced in my 55 years — The stranger’s name was Alzheimer’s.

This blog is based on a collection of journals which I have kept during this roller coaster ride of day-to-day living.  These personal  journals became my only friends that allowed me to “say” anything I felt I needed to say without any judgement during multitudes of turmoil.   

I faced so much of this alone and now want to share my experiences, learnings, and advice to help others who may be going through life with a partner with memory loss.  I will continue to journal my experiences on-line as I go through the stages of my partner’s A.D., hoping that I can shed some light to educate others in their struggles.   Each month, I will include tips, up-to-date information, and articles on Alzheimer’s, as well.  If you feel the need to share, I would love for you to be open to “talk” with me about your experiences — after all, we can learn from each other.