Loving a Wife with Alzheimer's
It’s interesting to see the silver linings that are emerging in the wake of Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. In the next few blogs, I want to take stock of how life has changed for the Martin family members.
Let’s start with my dad. In my humble perspective, Dad – like many men of his generation – had spent most of his life letting his wife organize almost all aspects of daily existence. Mom had taken care of their social life, the “to do” lists, the laundry. Mom was the disciplinarian for both my brother and me when we were children. She was the one who handled our issues at school, and took us to doctor and dentist appointments, piano lessons, and sporting events.
In the year since Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and was placed in a nursing home due to her failing lungs, Dad has had to learn how to take care of himself. With the help of a friend who used to work at my parents’ store, he’s had to sort through the remnants of our family’s history and existence in order to prepare for an estate sale and his own move. He’s had to arrange dinner dates, plan his own trips to the grocery stores, and keep track of his bills while living seven hours from Mom and me. He’s had to deal by phone with lawyers, doctors, and family members related to Mom’s condition. And he’s had to negotiate the resultant conflict that has arisen among these various parties at times.
Most importantly, he’s had to pull himself up by the bootstraps and redefine himself – and has had to learn how to handle life’s decisions and challenges in a different way than he previously did over the 49 years of his marriage. Before, he would have turned most challenges over to Mom to handle. Now, he doesn’t have that option. He’s had to learn how to be lead an independent life, which is not easy for a man in his 80s. In fact, many men of this age aren’t able to make this transition. To his credit, my father is making a valiant attempt at successfully learning how to live on his own. He’s learned to take each day as one day at a time, and to accept coaching from his family and friends as he has faced what unexpected twists that life has thrown him.
Having a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is challenging. However, we must remember that life still goes on for the family members. Our next step is to figure out how to redefine how we live our lives in order to take on our new caretaker role, yet still move ahead on our own life’s path.
Published On: November 16, 2006