I’m launching a new series on The Jesson Press called “A Day In The Life” in which I welcome volunteer guest contributors to detail, in their own words, one day with dementia. They can be both caregivers and those living a dementia diagnosis. The intent is to bring even more awareness to this condition—the highs and the lows, the cruelty and the moments of grace—and how we all cope with it in our own ways. They can be anonymous or not, their choice. All I do is proofread, format, and post. I welcome all contributors.
This first post of the series is by Jeff Ginther about one day caring for his wife, Becky. This post is repurposed from a Facebook post by Jeff in our support group. His post is what gave me the idea for the new series, so thanks, Jeff! For inspiring me and for agreeing to be the first contributor!
March 26, 2019, 12:10 AM
It’s been a while since I’ve posted and even longer since I’ve helped support you all. But I want to share an hour or so of life here, showing that even the simple, repetitive, mundane things in life can be exhausting.
Becky comes to work with me at the liquor store. We get off at about 10 to 10:30 on Sundays, depending on the number of customers, and odd jobs around the store. Our trip home is along quiet streets, about twenty minutes. Last night I had to stop at our grocery for a few odds and ends. Specifically I was looking for some shark steaks they had had on sale a couple days ago. They were gone, but I got the items on my list and some extra fruits and veggies. I like Beck to come in with me, but she prefers to sit in the truck. She has always hated grocery stores and cooking—and most of what I fix since it never tastes like Mom’s. And conversation is negligible…she simply has little or nothing to say. We do listen to music, so I am going through our CD collection. Occasionally she will sing along or move to the beat. And hold my hand.
We finally get home, I help her out of the truck and into the house…she is always unsteady and very slow moving. (No recent falls thank goodness.) I have to leave the foyer light on because our Yorkie will often poop there or in the rooms just off the foyer, on the stairs, or even in my office or kitchen or laundry, at the far end of the house. I have to quickly get in to turn on lights (we do try to conserve) and yes, while avoiding one poop I occasionally step in another. He does have a doggie door…. nope, won’t use it at night or during bad weather. He does have a complicated diaper and harness locked on him so Beck doesn’t take it off him. So I quickly clean up the poop so Beck or the dog doesn’t step in it, and in the meantime Beck will often go up to the bedroom (she’s like a damn bat, doesn’t like lights on and has stepped in poop because of that.) And the dog follows. So I need to trudge upstairs and retrieve him to take his garb off and stick him outside for a bit. And yes when he’s ready to come in he barks incessantly at the door and ignores the doggie door. I toss the peed-up diaper into the laundry, and put his supper out. When he comes in and I get his diaper back on he immediately jumps upstairs to snuggle with Beck (on our bed of course) “Oh what a good boy!” So I call to Beck to bring him down, so he can eat. She calls him. He’s deaf and also won’t jump off the bed by himself anymore. So when Becky finally gets that figured out she’ll carry him down and as he is eating she’ll start grazing the pantry for snacks. Mind you, she used to be a svelte 130 lbs.—now about 190. And sees no connection between cookies and her weight. Because it has gotten out of hand and her blood pressure is up and I am putting her on a diet. She despises me telling her what not to eat. But was fond of publicly criticizing me and my eating habits years ago. So I get her eating grapes or yogurt (she dismisses the Ritz crackers because she will ONLY eat a certain expensive type.)
Ok, so she goes up to bed, dog in tow, and I get the groceries and my backpack and our lunch box (she ate only an apple out of it this night, refuses leftovers, and insisted we order fresh pizza. She won’t eat warmed up pizza at work because we don’t have an oven at work.) I also drag in my iPad (she watches videos at work) and her snack bag. She will eat about anything my co-workers offer her, but refuses the same object I purchase for her.
I pour myself a little beverage and check emails and Facebook, clean up any mess we’ve left behind, set the fireplace fire, and go upstairs. Then I have to help her floss, encourage her to brush her teeth, tell her three times to use the medicated mouth rinse (abscessed crown), give her the night pills, often telling her what each one is, administering the CBD drops and explaining what they do, put her dirty clothes in the hamper (“That isn’t dirty!!!”), first showing her the food stains and explaining how they got there to her shock, checking her Depends for wet or soiling (another shock and embarrassment to her), plugging in her watch/phone, and finally getting my clothes off and brushing my teeth.
I try to read each night, a little uncomplicated fiction to her, something more in depth for me, the Catechism that I’ve never read, and finally scripture and prayers. I am exhausted. And not uncommonly the dog wants to go out an hour or two later…yes, Beck hears him and if I say anything about it, she muses that she didn’t know he wanted to go out….tomorrow it starts all over. Yay!!
Jeff and Becky met when Jeff started his medical residency training. Becky was hired as the head RN for the outpatient clinic they were assigned to. They got married a little over a year later, in 1978. Becky helped Jeff open his medical office in 1981 and worked for him, on and off (kids, other ailments) till 2014. She started showing subtle signs of Alzheimer’s in 2013, or maybe before, Jeff says. Jeff took retirement from his practice in mid 2014. He admits they did have some bad rough spots, but they overcame them and now are just navigating her problems, and his patience and tolerance.