Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dealing with Too Much

For a while, I had more than I could handle: new job, visitors, changes to our schedules. I think that's why I have not posted in three and a half months. Most of what I was handling was good stuff. However, carrying a bucket filled with diamonds probably takes just as much energy as carrying a bucket of rocks. ( I just checked. Five gallons of diamond weighs 147 pounds while five gallons of granite weights 112 pounds!) Many times I felt an urge to post, but I just couldn't summon the will to start.

Living with Ted is becoming more difficult. That is not a complaint, but it is a fact. At first I thought it might be getting easier because he sleeps so much on most days. Frankly, that does provide some respite when I am alone with Ted. Nonetheless, I have begun to feel a heaviness that is slowly growing. Ted is getting worse, and that saddens me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help him feel more loved and more comfortable than he would feel in a nursing home. So far, Ted remains ambulatory and capable of conversation. His sense of humor seems to be so basic to his character that at times I think it is unimpaired. But, Alzheimer's is robbing Ted of more and more of his memory. His most cherished childhood memories are fading. Bits and pieces of memory show up when I least expect them, but overall he tends to recall things that never happened more than things that did. He can still spin a piece of an interesting story, but it is largely fictitious, and he repeats the same small piece over and over in a space of just a few minutes.

Ted can still dress himself, but he needs more and more help finding the clothes and remembering to change. Last night I followed to his room to ensure that he had what he needed to prepare for bed. He glanced at the rocking chair that Barbara always uses to stage his clean underwear, etc. for the next day. "Well there are my pajamas" he said as he walked toward the chair. But then, "No, wait a minute that's not right". I pointed to his bed where the covers were turned down and fresh pajama's lay spread out, just as they are every evening. "Oh, there they are." he said.

Ted still goes to the bathroom on his own. He can still shower himself once we get him into the tub with a bench to sit on. Yet it seems that he is faltering a bit on even such rudimentary tasks.

Upon arriving at the dinner table, Ted always asks "Where do I sit". I always show him the same chair and the only place setting with a half glass of milk.

It is more difficult for Ted to understand even our simplest statements. Part of that is his very poor hearing, but a bigger part seems to be his inability to think as fast as he once did. I have read articles and watched documentaries about advanced Alzheimer's. I am sad to say Ted is likely to get much worse. I listened the other night as Barbara patiently explained that she was his daughter, not his wife. That she was Barbara, not Juanita. He still remembers all of his children's names: the four B's, Bruce, Barry, Brenda, Barbara. However he has no memory of where they live or who their spouses and children are.

I do not deny that it is difficult to hear him repeat the same sentence or two again and again. It can be frustrating trying to communicate something as simple as "I am going to get the newspaper for you". Often when he is awake, he talks to himself non-stop. He is not loud, and we just tune it out. He usually amuses himself quite a bit, and I am glad for his sake.

The hardest part is watching Ted diminish. He is still Ted, but he is fading away. I am never sure what bits he can remember from an hour a go, from a month ago, or even from his childhood on the farm. It is difficult to initiate any sort of conversation on his worst days. Ted is still here, and perhaps he still will be so long as he is conscious. Yet I find myself beginning to grieve. The loss starts before death.

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