Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is My Name James?

Imagine losing your memories—forgetting your friends, unable to recognize your spouse, no longer recalling the names of your own children. Imagine, too, that you lose interest in reading, hiking, cooking or whatever other pastimes and passions define your life. Now imagine that you can no longer eat, walk or dress yourself. You must rely on people around you for the most basic human tasks, like taking medications and brushing your teeth, but you don’t fully understand what’s going on, because you can’t remember what’s happened or why.

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When most people hear someone has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they just think of them as losing their memory. It is so very, very much more than that. As a person with Alzheimer’s, you lose everything that made you who you were. You lose your personality and your sense of humor. You lose every skill, regardless of how talented you were. You no longer retain reasoning ability and your judgment becomes totally impaired. And maybe the most tragic of all, there is no more learning. 

You lose contact with your friends, because you can no longer communicate with them, and they are at a loss to know how to talk to you.

To lose your memory is to lose the memory of your life. You lose your marriage, the birth of your children or even the knowledge that you have children. You lose all the things and places that you ever loved and enjoyed.  Everything you ever read and learned from books and study is gone.

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There comes a time when you have to ask, “What is my name?”

You forget how to take care of your personal needs. You have to be led to the bathroom, to your bedroom and to the sink for a drink of water.

You can’t dress yourself. You have to have help to bathe, to shave, to brush your teeth, to shampoo and comb your hair. You can no longer tie your shoes nor many, many other things we all take for granted every hour of our life.

As a victim of Alzheimer’s you eventually become an empty shell at the mercy of others to care for you.
Never again will I take it lightly when I hear someone has Alzheimer’s. I have witnessed firsthand the horrors of this disease. Some might think “horror” is too strong of a word, but it describes perfectly what I have seen. It is the most heartrending thing I have experience in my lifetime.

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Alzheimer’s is like an animal after its prey. Nothing will stop it until it takes your last breath.

I am my dear husband’s caregiver. We are both trapped in a world of Alzheimer’s with its heartache, its emptiness and loneliness, and worst of all, its hopelessness.

Every morning I awake to the same empty feeling and I ask, “Please God, show me the way to better care for his needs.”  I never cease to feel guilty because it’s so hard to be patient and kind every minute of the day.

Mother Teresa said, “Kindness is a language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”  I so want to be kind. Even if he doesn’t understand what I am saying, I want him to hear the love and gentleness in my words. He deserves every good thing I can give him. He has been everything a wife could ever ask for in our many years together.

Morning hours are not quite as stressful, but as the day drags on, I get so tired and in my mind I think, “Will this never end?”

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He always wants to go to bed early. I dress him and kiss him goodnight. While he’s asleep is the only time he seems like the man I have loved so long and so dearly. Some nights I lie awake for hours and look at him and at times I feel so ashamed of my thoughts. My thoughts of wishing his empty life could end in his sleep even though I would miss him so much.

I still feel safe in bed with him. How could life and feelings get so mixed up?

There’s no happy way out and life goes on and on one long day at a time.

One thing I am sure of — thanks to the God he has served so faithfully.

Alzheimer’s cannot take his soul.

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