Are you an Alzheimer Spouse?

You might remember a time when you’d wake up in the morning and say “aah…” The day was looking pretty good, and you were more or less (depending on the day) ready for it. Sure, some days were a hassle, and not everything went smoothly, but the world seemed a semi-secure, generally pleasant place to hang out for four-fifths of a century or so.

Maybe you don’t say “aah” anymore, maybe instead you say “oh.” I’m an Alzheimer Spouse, and that seems to be my typical sentiment when I wake to find that another day has presented itself.

This is not the club I particularly want to be in. I have much more patience with the “aah” crowd. The folks that say any day you wake up is a good day. The positive kids. The optimists. The non-whiners.

But among the things I’ve learned since being recruited for this expedition into the Land of the Long Goodbye is that no matter how many smiley faces you affixed to your headlamp as you accepted your calling and marched in, life with an Alzheimer’s-stricken spouse is a life of disquietude.

It is a time of exile from anything that feels like home. It’s a piece of barren real estate that’s scrubby and dry, and not much grows, and you will probably never like it here very much. So what is a member of the keep-your-sunnyside-up guild supposed to do with such a landscape?

Okay…wait a minute…you thought I was going to answer my own question, didn’t you? I should be able to, I’m sure of it. I am, after all, a firm believer in attitude being a facet of life we can readjust when the need arise.

But I’ve got a problem called “flat out of ideas.” Good ideas, that is. I do have a general protocol though, and I’ll be glad to share it. It starts with putting one foot in front of the other (cue a goofy song from one of those 70s claymation Christmas specials.) Once you’ve got that down pat, the next step is to give yourself some slack. If you want a Chipotle burrito for lunch, get a Chipotle burrito for lunch. If you aren’t feeling productive, have an unproductive day and forgive yourself for it. Find a good online support group, and frequent it. Frequently. Assess your situation periodically. Do you need to escape for a bit? Would a little help help? Get some. Escape for a bit. Oh, and have tea if you like tea.

Tea making is just one of those rituals that can ground the most emotionally muddled of us.

Yeah, I know. You were hoping for better. Me too. But “managing, with a side order of unsettledness” seems to be the standard-issue menu option in the life of Alzheimer’s spousal caregiving. But perhaps you’ve got a jar of ideas I haven’t sprinkled on yet. Let’s share them!

(editorial break in commentary: I abandoned this post for about 3 weeks and have just gotten back to it.) Turns out, I’m not always so good at taking my own advice. Specifically, I need to “escape for a bit,” and engage a helper-companion. I have not done these things yet. This, I tell myself, is because August has been a very busy month, (family vacation, launching the college crowd,) and I need to wrap up a little domestic engineering before I can proceed. So now I have to follow the suggestion two paragraphs up where I give myself some slack. There’s a fine balance though-too much slack and I feel like a slacker. I’ll let you know how it’s going next month.