Friday, September 27, 2013
Since I wrote the previous blog, two spouses of folks in my Alzheimer Support Group died. These caregivers each devoted the past several years to keeping their spouses content and comfortable at home, only recently beginning to tackle the difficult process of separating by placing their loved ones in a care facility.
One woman lived for four weeks in a memory care facility with the assistance of hospice; the other became ill and was diagnosed with cancer, traveling back and forth from hospital to hospital while the physicians attempted to diagnose her condition.
Traumatic separations after years of mourning the losses of intimacy formed during long satisfying marriages. Attendance at a support group during the past year and a half has helped these spouses form relationships with other caregivers so they do not feel so alone with the challenges and losses they now face. Reading my book Put That Knife Away also assisted them in accepting the fact they are not alone in dealing with the difficulties of separation and the challenges of family and well-meaning friends.
I am now on respite in New York where I walked on Sunday in Coney Island with the Brooklyn chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. We turned the boardwalk purple with more than 800 walkers raising $117,000 for Alzheimer disease research. There will be another walk in Manhattan by the Hudson River on Ocotber 20ieth and in the Southwest chapter in Arizona on Novmber 2nd.Participate wherever you live, raise funds to help find a cure. Contact your employer to get matching funds, form a team, earn your purple long-sleeved t-shirt. Participating helps me feel I am DOING something, not merely toleratng, accepting and waiting.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
All through the lives of children, parents try to prepare themselves and their offspring for separations. Some families send their children to grandparents in other states during school holidays, some children attend sleep away camps while others settle for sleep-overs at friends' homes.
These days with so many children living in divorced families, the children spend time with one parent or the other, permitting the parents to feel and adjust to the separation from the children.
Once we have accomplished the goal of rearing our children and they go off to college or to the armed services, we concentrate more on establishing peer friendships as well as strengthening our bonds with our spouses and we must readapt ourselves when we or our friends move to retirement homes, become ill or pass away. I also hear about spouses who divorce after 44 years of marriage; the empty nest adjustment is quite difficult for some couples.
Our now adult children have to deal with the separation from family members as they pursue their livelihoods and raise their own families. With the proliferation of social media, the young of today are able more than ever to keep in touch with friends from earlier phases of their lives, reducing their feelings of isolation which plague some older adults who move and need to make new friends wherever they go.
Those of us who are caregivers for an invalid or dementia afflicted spouse or parent also separate very slowly from our loved ones. We trace the steps in reverse with our loved one becoming more and more dependent upon us as they age and become less able to perform "the tasks of daily living" for themselves. The process starts so slowly sometimes that we don't realize for quite a while that our partner or parent is not there for us--the relationship has become one-sided. Once that realization hits and we begin to be concerned that we will not be able to care for our loved one at home, we need to reassess the separation process once again. Slowly we need to prepare ourselves and our loved one by having volunteers come to the house to provide respite care for us, by asking friends and family to take turns caring for the person or by hiring someone to do so, so both parties can begin to adjust to the separation that will occur.
We are often not sensitive to the difficulty of this process; we have forgotten the pain of separation on the children's first day of school. The familiarity, the intimacy of caring for a loved one is ingrained in the caregiver and in the recipient; it is the only part of the relationship that survives, even when it is difficult. It is part of the reason deciding to place a loved one in a facility is so hard to do and takes so much time and considered thought.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
We abhor violence but we respect the right to use violence to prevent another Holocaust. We as a country entered too late to prevent Hitler and the genocide in Rwanda; we must support our President in this most difficult decision because the cost of Iran or even North Korea usng nuclear power is even greater than Assad killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, although I suspect he aims for Sunnis, not Allowites.
We cannot effect change within the Middle Eastern countries which are so torn by tribal loyalties they cannot work together in their common interest, but we can let go of our partisan views to unite in a common effort to save the planet from poison gases which we permitted to be bought by Syria during the 1980's when we were more concerned about nuclear energy than nerve gas components. The West sold these components to Syria- and profitted financially from the sales, short sightedly not thinking of their future power on the world stage.
Let's ask our congress to vote to support the President and wish our rockets Godspeed in their mission
Sunday, September 1, 2013
It takes two people at least for communication to happen- by touch, by gesture, by eye roll or by speech. My skills have developed during my lifetime to listen keenly and to read the faces of those I know well and to recognize often the mood they are in when I wish to communicate with them, either on Skype, on the telephone or in person. I find it hard to know the mood or feelings of those with whom I email or text.
My skills have been sharpened during the past few years when I visit my husband at the memory care center.I kind of know whether he is sleeping, dozing or merely shutting out external stimuli by closing his eyes, which guides my decision to let him be or to gently awaken him so he knows I am there.
When he greets me I can sort of tell whether he really knows me that day or just knows I am a familiar person in his life.
Sometimes he will follow an aide and leave me sitting there. Yesterday, however, he was sitting in his favorite chair just outside his room door, watching the action around him. When I approached his field of vision, he looked up, put out both hands and said "Hallelu--I'm glad you're here."
I pulled up a chair so I sat across from him and held his hands, pleased. This was going to be a good day. My husband really looked at me. I was wearing a light green t-shirt and shorts. He held out his cupped hands and said, "You really have a big body." He looked at my knees and his and attempted to pull his shorts longer, then he looked up at me again and said, "I think you should leave."
My husband thought my clothing was too revealing. Although he liked looking at me, he did not like me to be out and about dressed as I was. This communication was so strong-- and so in character for him--it felt as if he were well again! He succeeded in making me feel both appreciated and uncomfortable.
I stood up and so did he. We walked for a while as the moment passed. We played balloon toss for almost fifteen minutes until he said, "Enough." The dinner trolley arrived. We watched as the staff plated the food and gathered the others to the tables. We chose his plate, he sat down, picked up his fork and became unaware of my presence as he ate and I left.