A friend gave me this pamphlet and I've read through it a few times, finding some of the tips things I have already done, or am currently experiencing over and over. (Although the pamphlet describes a caregiver as "someone who cares for an aging, ill or disabled person", my focus will be from the perspective of a spouse caring for a spouse who has Alzheimers'.)

5. There is no one way to care for a person. Each situation is different. This is a tricky one, as I believe a person with Alzheimers' needs to feel safe as well as important, even if their cognitive function is declining and they forget simple things or conversations. I also believe that as long as they can do everyday things, they should keep doing them for themselves, even if it takes longer or is not done perfectly. (This is very similar to raising young children.)***

One example is letting my husband make his own breakfast, which I took over for one day, so that he ate early enough to be able to walk comfortably at a model railroad show. Unfortunately, it did rain that day, so despite getting him to take a shower the day before, giving him a haircut and helping him pick out clothes, then making his breakfast, he didn't get to go out with a friend for half the day.

My husband's reaction was that he felt bad for his friend, who had to de-ice his car, then tried driving several times but the roads were just too slippery. I had been looking forward to a few hours for myself, had tentative lunch plans I had to cancel with a young lady I once tutored and was looking forward to hearing how she was doing in college.

10. The wishes of the person being cared for are very important.

11. Your needs and wishes are important too.

Maybe I let my disappointment show, because later on my husband thanked me for helping him. I was watching daytime TV, something I rarely do, Judge Judy or The People's Court or both, sitting on our bed, in the midst of his crazy new way of decorating the bed with stuffed animals, American flags, and placemats. I said, "Oh, it's no problem. Consider it my way of thanking you for your creative bed-making."

He smiled, then it was like a cloud passed over, and he said, "I seem to be having trouble remembering what day it is. What should I do next?" With those two sentences, I almost cried. Instead, I asked if he had eaten lunch (he hadn't). I suggested he make a sandwich, then read a book he picked out at the library about horses.

Smile again, "You have such good ideas. What would I do without you?" In one of the TV court cases someone called the other person a gold digger, so I replied, "Oh, you'd probably find yourself another younger wife who is a gold digger." And we both laughed because that was what his mother had called me.

47. A sense of humor can help you deal with the emotional ups and downs.

***In another writing, I will address the variety of responses that other people have shared with me, who think that I'm handling our situation wrong, from diet to exercise to enforcing a routine, and more. Boggles the mind, especially when it's not advice or support I requested. I'm grateful to those who read what I write as well as those who just listen.

The pamphlet was written by Mardi Richmond, 2003. Designed by Eva Bernstein, illustrated by Meg Biddle. Journeyworks Publishing.

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