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Friday, April 25, 2014

Goodbye to Lindy April 25, 2014

We all met Lindy when he accompanied his wife last year to our support group meetings. We knew him as quiet, intelligent, knowledgeable, sweet and unassuming. He lived at home with his devoted wife until he was unable to care for himself and she was no longer physically capable of caring for him. He finally was able to live in a brand-new assisted living facility where his wife joined him every evening for dinner in the well-appointed chef-run dining room.

Finally because the family was not able to support his placement without financial assistnce from the state. His children were not able to assist financially  but also not helpful in getting this accomplished.

We members of the Alzheimer's support groups I lead or belong to in Arizona have many members who live in second marriages which have been happily in existence for two or three decades after one or both spouses retired. Arizona is of course one of  the most popular retirement destinations and many people marry again after their first beloved partners die and most marry partners who have been bereaved themselves or divorced.

The families I have been privileged to meet really appreciate their good fortune in finding second spouses with whom they are compatible and in living comfortably in warm winters without the strains of professional life or child-rearing. They make new friends, pursue hobbies, volunteer their time in many organizations until --booom- one of them begins to change due to incipient dementia, cognitive impairment and Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed. 

Most of the couples I have met merely shift the responsibilites slowly from the affected person to the more cognitively healthy one, although many of them have physical lmitations themselves. They don't often share their burdens with their own children who live in another state and rarely confide in the affected spouse's children. It is only  when the children arrive for a holiday visit that they begin to sense something is amiss. Some children return home and do nothing until the next visit; some offer helpful suggestions, increase the number of visits and participate in the decision-making. Others less so.

The burden and the stress of caregiving for a beloved spouse weighs heavily on the caregiver. Nancy Reagan called it The Long Goodbye.  It is so helpfu to have adult children and grandchildren support the caregiver to make the affected person's life as meaningful and as safe as possible.

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