J and I are on our annual pilgrimage to the beach. We have gone to the same resort town for a week or so at the end of every summer for the last 24 years. This year, however, has been different and a little bit of a shock.
Let me explain. Living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, I meet what each day brings and generally don’t see the changes in J. Since we are away from home and yet in exactly the same place as last year, they jump out at me.
There is no denying that J holds less in her mind for shorter periods of time than a year ago and is more confused. In her forthright way, she more often asks, “What do you want me to do?” That is a little heartbreaking.
Last year, J could walk to town for newspapers on her own. She once had a little problem finding the rental house, but it was no big deal. This year, she can’t leave the house without someone with her.
She can still point out sights on our walks – plants or houses or birds that interest her, but she can’t string together a coherent sentence. I used to reliably be able to figure out what she was saying and translate it to others. No longer.
She also can no longer take her pills at the proper time without supervision. I have hidden the container and now dole them out. And she tried to make coffee this morning with no water. Fortunately, I figured that out before disaster ensued.
I have been able to see this even more clearly because a number of the guests we expected were unable to come for even a part of the week. Our daughter started a new job and couldn’t get time off. Our son, a freelancer, was offered high-paying work. Our sister-in-law couldn’t take the whole week off. It is all entirely understandable and still left me with fewer hands to help.
Recognizing J’s diminishing capacities has been painful and I have had some good cries after she has gone to sleep. On the plus side, though, I now see that J needs more help at home. Our sister-in-law is managing the care for her elderly mother, who has dementia. She gave me some great tips on finding quality, affordable assistance.
I am writing this on the beach, feeling the breeze on my skin and listening to the crash of the waves. It says to me that this experience is for the good and will help us get what we need. Now it is time for a swim.