Accomplishing Household Projects with Dementia: Stay Involved
Put a paintbrush in the hand of one with dementia and what do you get?
My husband found out this weekend while we worked at our cottage in Northern Neck, Virginia. Before I go on, I need to give you a little background.
My husband and I bought a cottage in a waterfront community about three years ago so that we could be close to three of my brothers. Our cottage was built out of cinderblock in the 1950’s. It’s small with two bedrooms and one bath. We enjoy going there for “mini vacations” throughout most of the year. When I go by myself, I spend lots of time fishing or going out to dinner or church with my brothers. I’m not there enough to keep up a flower garden…though I try. My husband plans to retire in the next four years, and we are considering tearing down this little cottage and replacing it with a prefab home. With that in mind, we are trying not to put much more money in this cottage. Therefore, changing this room into a sunroom had to be cost efficient. We left up the paneling and painted over it. Have you ever painted over paneling? It is NOT a pleasant experience!
Now we are back to what it’s like to put a paintbrush into the hand of one with dementia… The room was empty of everything but a ladder and a table to hold the paint. I chose to get up on the ladder to paint the upper perimeter of the room…before long, I guess I tired of that, or something else caught my eye, and I sat on the floor working on the floor trim…and I guess I tired of that and I started painting just the stripes in the paneling (which had to be painted one at a time with a brush in order to get the paint into the crevices). And then, I noticed I had stopped in the middle of a wall of upper trim, so back up on the ladder I went. Before long, I decided to let the dog outside and get a drink…
“You missed a spot,” my husband said, with roller in hand. “There, on the bottom. And there’s still some areas around the top…and what about these stripes?”
I suppose I probably looked like a ping pong ball bouncing from ladder to floor to wall to floor to ceiling to wall...You get the picture. I realize now that I need to do painting like everything else—in small increments. Soooo, next week when I go back to put on the final color coat, I suppose it will take me DAYS to paint this small 8x10 room. I’ll need to do the ceiling one day, the walls another day and the trim another day still…
I’ve come to accept the fact that living with vascular dementia makes life different for me—and that’s okay! Thankfully, my husband is very understanding and guides me gently back to whatever I need to focus on. He laughingly says I make life interesting for him as he never knows what I’ll do next!
Can I tell you one more thing we did this weekend? Except for church, we never left the cottage for three days until the last night when we decided to clean up and go out to eat---truth be known, the kitchen was just too jumbled with stuff to cook. On the way back from dinner, we passed many fields where crops of corn, wheat, etc. have been cut and taken away, leaving behind lots of good eats for deer, etc. This particular night, I put down my window and began looking for deer in the dark fields. My husband, being the good sport he is, slowed the car and handed me a flashlight. Shining the light out the windows at the fields, I was able to see the eery glow of eyes staring at me from the dark. You can’t imagine how excited I got as I saw each deer’s eyes! It was like looking into the glowing soul of the animal. And I felt like I had won a prize each time my light located a deer. Combined with the cool night air, the exhilarating hunt for animals in the night, and my love giving me this experience, I felt like I was in Heaven!
Vascular dementia has softened me and allowed me to experience life as I never would in the past. This dementia enables me to touch that inner child and take in everyday with the vigor of an adventurous child.
Hmmm…This dementia is NOT so bad after all!