I took my husband to the Adult Day Center for the first time on Thursday and it was only for a program about butterfly gardens, presented by someone he once worked with at the Environmental Education Center. He was awake before I was, trying to make himself a Hot Pockets breakfast using the microwave. He was dressed in the same clothes as the last three or four days, but he turned to me as I groggily headed towards the coffeemaker, and he barked, "There are no directions on these. How the fuck do they expect people to know how to cook them? AND WHOSE FUCKING SOCKS AND SHOES ARE THESE?" He was wearing his own shoes and socks.
I should say if you're offended by a few swear words or don't care to read about day-to-day living with a spouse who has Alzheimer's, feel free to read something else. I need to record this, hoping perhaps it may help someone who is/has/or will be in the position I'm currently living. That being said, for the last month or more, I've been dealing with numerous other issues that I don't feel like sharing at this time, which have brought my stress level way too high.
Back to microwave breakfasts...we've been testing them for several weeks in anticipation of days when my husband would attend the Center so I could get some much needed "caregiver respite". He and I have had variations of the same conversation regarding his perception that there are "no directions" more times than I can count. It's an expensive solution and a change in his routine, but I'm in the midst of thyroid medication adjustment, so it seemed a good short-term experiment. His neurologist thought the Adult Day Center would be beneficial for both of us.
While my husband eats, partially complaining and partially enjoying the Hot Pocket, he shows me a book of his that he wants to bring called Butterflies of New Jersey. There is a Monarch butterfly on the cover and he says he cannot remember what it is called. (He extensively studied Monarch butterflies, the insects that are plant-specific to them, plus he has given many slideshows on all of this in the past. That, and we always had to allow milkweed to grow in various places on our front and side lawn. I'm talking YEARS.) Before we leave the house, our sons report the showers are backing up with sewage and the toilets and sinks are not draining. "Please fucking deal with it," I beg as I leave.
I can handle a lot, but overflowing toilets are one of the few small things in life that put me over the edge. However, I'm trying to stay positive about the day, so off we go. While my husband is given a brief tour then told I will be in another room filling out forms, he heads off without so much as a goodbye or backward glance. I'm glad/sad; somewhat like the first day your child goes to preschool. No time to waste, though, so I settle in for an hour long intake interview, sign whatever forms, and take the rest to be filled out "at my leisure" regarding finances and referring doctor, but asap.
Meanwhile, the butterfly program is over; the "club" is having afternoon snacks; a woman comes to the door, passing along a message from my husband so I know where he is. The very kind lady interviewing me says he can come back tomorrow for free, since they are closed for Memorial Day, but she says it seems like the timing is right for him and I should try two to three days per week. I'm totally overwhelmed, but trust her judgment. I haven't even thought of the plumbing disaster waiting at home. So, Day 1, barely 3 hours; he has six new friends. We come home and he naps for three hours.
Today, he is scheduled to go for lunch, a dulcimer and guitar program and afternoon snack. He is dressed, in the same clothes, and we have a replay of Hot Pockets breakfast. Major thanks to both of our sons, my son-in-law, and my eldest grandson: the showers, toilets and sinks are all clear after hours of literally shitty work. My husband gives me a dozen reasons he doesn't want to go while I drink coffee and watch the clock. I just listen, then tell him his new friends are expecting him and I take a quick shower. Fortunately, this facility is three minutes from our home.
I tell him to put on the shoes he thinks aren't his, and fill an insulated mug with Pepsi, that my daughter made for him last Father's Day, with photos of all of us, and the words Thank You For Making Us A Family! He asks, "Am I allowed to do that?" I answered, "They don't serve soda, so let's just sneak it in." Somehow, this appeals to him and we leave. I drop him off, and again he blends into the happy group awaiting lunch, mostly women. "It's The Butterfly Man!" one woman exclaims. I help an aide maneuver an elderly man using a walker join the table, then leave.
Three hours of freedom, of knowing he is safe. I drive to the Veterans' Greenhouse and buy a lot of plants, then go home and alternate between planting the garden and disinfecting everything that was clogged. I pick him up exactly at 3pm and his new friend Mel with the walker says, "It's so nice to meet you, Ma'am. Your husband certainly doesn't look old enough to have served in WWII, but he sure feels strongly about it." I didn't know what to say.
As we are leaving, I stop to tell the woman in charge that I'll be bringing him two days a week to start when he interrupts and is quite agitated about what he thought a group of people were saying about war. She smoothes over the situation and tells me he is an excellent student and very helpful. He hugs her. As we're getting in the car, I ask him how it went. He says they only gave him half of whatever lunch was, "probably because I'm the new guy", then he said he gave a lecture about how we've had too many wars. He also said some people had guards, but they were pretty nice.
Suddenly, my sunny gardening day turned dark. At home, I made him a huge peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich and we sat outside. With his favorite cat on his lap, I asked him about the music, which he liked and said they come every month. Then I reminded him that there have always been wars, but at this time of year we honor those who serve or died defending our country. I named people in the military in our family he knows. Clouds began to look threatening and I could see he had turned off. I suggested a shower and a nap, both of which he did, while I made a late dinner.
Tomorrow, he may or may not remember any of it, but we will visit my father's grave and this year I said he needs to go with me to the parade because there will be bagpipers. He said he hadn't been since the boys were in strollers and he didn't remember any bagpipers. I assured him they would be there and we will go, just the two of us, then later we will go to a BBQ at my daughter's. He said nothing for ten minutes, then asked if I was sure there would be bagpipers. I said yes, and you will cry, but later we'll see family and you will be happy.
"You're usually right", he said, falling asleep, which wasn't my point at all. But my Butterfly Man was fast asleep, so I removed his glasses and turned off the lights. May you all take a moment to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. And I thank all of you who have served, are still in service or are suffering from having served our country, as well as your families. More than thanks, peace. May you come to peace.