I have had to reevaluate my prior conclusions this afternoon, when, after receiving me with a hug and permitting me to kiss him, my husband said to my son, "That's my wife."
Whether the "fog" of Alzheimer's lifted briefly and he soon forgot again or not, it proves we cannot ever forget the humanity of the beloved person whose brain is deteriorating from this dread disease.
I also believed my spouse no longer has any concept of time except that provided by regularly spaced meals, waking and bedtime routines. The staff reports he looks for me all the time; sometimes he is delighted when I appear, other times not so much. Did he know I was away for longer than a day this time? He does not seem disturbed by my absence but was clearly reassured by my return.
At earlier stages of Alzheimer's disease, my husband minded very much if I left the room where he was, even for a few minutes. If he couldn't find me, he felt lost. At that time, he was frightened of his loss of cognitive functioning and he depended on me to protect him and to help him understand his world as it was shrinking around him.
I felt important, responsible and frightened too. I couldn't leave him; he went wth me wherever I went and I planned activities for us tht kept us occupied the whole day. He trusted me to keep him well which of course I was not able to do.
It is now eight years since his diagnosis and three years that he resides in a memory care facility and he has accepted assistnce from any of the red-shirted helpers who are friendly, smiling and accommodating. The burden of his everyday care has been lifted from my shoulders. I am able to schedule activities for myself, create new interests and yes, even go on a yearly vacation, confident that his needs are being met and that he is content.
By taking time out for myself, I can see our life with new perspective, I can remain in the moment for us both during our daily visits. I can be more fully "here" after having spent time "there."