"A Three Dog Life" Eloquently Describes a Caregiver's Journey
Over the summer, I participated in a different type of chain letter. This particular chain letter resulted in about 10 paperback books being delivered to my mailbox. One of these books, A Three Dog Life: A Memoir by Abigail Thomas, provides a good picture of the many challenges that caregivers face in dealing with loved ones who have dementia or a brain injury.
Thomas's husband, Rich, didn't have Alzheimer's; instead, he was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury. But as I read this book, I found myself feeling that many of experiences that Thomas described are similar to what I went through as Mom struggled with dementia. Short term memory loss. Mood swings. Coming to terms with the fact that your loved one mentally is no longer the person that you knew.
For instance, here's one passage that really rang true: "There are days when he is grounded in the here and now and days when his brain is boiling over with confusion. When he is angry I go home after only a short visit. Staying does neither of us any good. Where do I put these bad days? Part of me is still hanging on to the couple we were."
Thomas also describes trying to keep Rich at home once he is released from the hospital despite Rich's delusions: "We finally found a doctor to treat him, and a hospital that was prepared to admit him through the ER, but though terrified and confused and furious, he wouldn't go. One awful Wednesday morning, he insisted on going home. I brought him his wheelchair. ‘Get in, Rich,' I said, hating myself, ‘get in. I'll take you home.'" That sequence resounded of the challenges that I faced when first taking taking Mom to the nursing home.
A significant part of A Three Dog Life is devoted to Thomas's efforts to build a life separate from Rich. After moving Rich into a long-term care facility for people with brain injuries, Thomas describes how the staff "gently suggested that frequent phone calls were not necessary. I should worry. If there was a problem, they would let me know. I took this to mean that in the nicest possible way I was being told to Get a Life."
Thomas' book shares the pain and the agony of caregiving, but also details the funny and touching moments that also arise. This book offers a realistic picture of the realities of someone who suffers a traumatic brain injury (or disease) and also of the humanity that arises in the heart and the life of the caregiver.