Tag Archives: dealing with dementia

I have locks to be thankful for.

Locks may seem like a strange thing to be thankful for, but for me, locks are my life. Locks help me protect what I value as my husband has reached a stage where he is into everything.

I am sad at times, when I think about how Craig and I have built a life together over the years and little by little I see it going away. It has become my role to keep things together as Craig is busy taking them apart. Today, I replaced a door knob on a bedroom door that had been locked and unlocked so many times that the lock wore out. Then, in the kitchen, I installed child-proof (and I’m hoping Craig-proof) fasteners on some cabinets.

Sometimes, I have to laugh–crying is not an option. A few weeks ago, I stepped out of the shower. As I was drying off, I saw a shadow going across in front of the window. I knew it was Craig and he was carrying something–it was my clothes–the clothes I laid out on the bed to put on after my shower. Not wanting to shock my neighbors by going outside wrapped in a towel, I took out other clothes and got dressed. It took me a while to locate everything. I found my underwear on the propane tank.  I not sure what the man from Santa Fe Propane would have thought if he got there before I did.  Now I lock the bedroom door before I get in the shower.

Nothing is really safe, and once Craig fixates on something, the only thing I can do is lock it away, especially valuable things like my china. While I lock away the things of our life together, I am reminded to also lock away our precious memories. It is my job to preserve them. I must remember that Craig was not always as he is now. Even now, he is a sweet, loving man. But I must not forget that through most of his life he has been a strong, brave, skilled,  smart, creative, thoughtful, generous and caring person.

Every day is an adventure.

It has been nearly four years since I retired. I’m not really sure how I thought my retirement would be. But I’m pretty sure that I would have attacked retirement just like I have every other stage of my life–full steam ahead and don’t look back!  In no time at all, I would have taken on enough commitments to fill a forty-hour workweek, and beyond.  Fortunately, our current situation has saved me from all that. It has helped me to learn to live one day at a time–not thinking and planning for a future–but enjoying each moment of today.

I say, “our situation” because whatever we face, we are in this together. I know that friends and family members think  what I am dealing with is very challenging. But I am not sure that I have the most difficult challenge. Craig is not able to articulate what he is going through, so there is no way to fully understand. But it must be frightening at times to face a world that he doesn’t seem to fit into any more. He should know how things work and what to do, but the fact is he doesn’t. He doesn’t understand why I have to wait at a red light. He doesn’t understand why he can’t open a package of food in a store and eat it without paying. I’m sure he has no idea why I’m upset when he does that. It must seem to him that the world is a very confusing place.

That’s why we are spending more and more time at home. He is comfortable and confident there. He marches through the house saying , “Hup, hup, hup, hup! He goes out the back door and around to the front door where he rings the doorbell over and over. While this is annoying at times, it seems to make him happy.  He roams our acreage and finds things to entertain himself, giving me a chance to do what I need to do. This is the world he likes to be in–our world.

Craig’s brother, Mark, stayed with Craig for a few days while I attended docent training at the Highlands Center. Mark described it as “hours of butt-numbing boredom interrupted by seconds of gut-wrenching terror.” I agree there are times when things get a little scary. Like the time Craig followed the claims adjuster up the ladder onto the roof. It was probably only a few minutes, but it seemed like hours trying to coax him back down the ladder. Then there was the time when he put the grill cover back on the gas grill while food was cooking on it. Or the countless times when I’ve lost him in stores and amusement parks and while hiking.

Yes, I agree with the terrifying part, but not the boredom. I have plenty to do around here. Just in case I might get bored, Craig keeps me on my toes. There’s always a mystery to solve– Where is the power cord for the television?  Why did he squirt chocolate syrup all over? What happened to that screwdriver I was just using? Bored–NEVER! As I like to say, “Every day is an adventure.”

It might not be funny, but all you can do is laugh.

when you were youngMaybe I’m more sensitive than I should be, but I can’t help feeling bad when Craig and I are out in public and something happens. My daughter-in-law, Vikki, said I have no reason to feel bad about anything that happens, but somehow I can’t help it.

Recently, Craig and I were in Costco. He was wearing a large pair of binoculars around his neck, and a lady began questioning him about it. “Why are you wearing binoculars,” she asked. “What are you looking at in Costco?”

Craig seemed unaware that she was talking to him. I was thinking just be thankful he’s wearing pants. Anyway, neither of us responded to her questions. We just kept walking. This was the third store we had been in that day. Since no one else had commented on the binoculars,  I had forgotten all about them.

That was not the only incident that occurred in Costco. When he cleared a tray of sample snack bars. I apologized to the demo lady who said, simply, “It’s okay.” Later, when we were checking out, Craig insisted on going along with the cart rather than joining me on the customer side of the checkout stand. The person loading carts gave me a look that said, “It’s okay.” Thus allowing us to avoid a scene that had occurred on a previous Costco  trip.

“It’s okay.”–two simple words that say so much. It says, “I see what your situation is and I understand.” I’m not sure the person saying this has any idea how much I appreciate those simple words. They could be words spoken to a mom with small children in tow. It’s impossible to always predict and control the behavior of children. My situation is similar. I know there will be inappropriate behavior, frequent trips to the bathroom (not always in time) and the occasional temper tantrum.  The only alternative is to hide away at home like a clam.  Since we’re not ready for that, we’ll have to rely on the kindness and understanding of strangers.

That’s what happened recently. I had taken a short nap after spending half the day on our lawn tractor. When I woke up, Craig was gone. I went looking for him in the car.  I found him about a mile from our home, but he wasn’t alone. He had taken our dumpster for a walk.  It was my intention to have him walk home with the dumpster while I followed him in the car. But Craig, happy to see me, got into the car and wasn’t getting out. That left me with a problem–how could I get us, the car and the dumpster home. I tried putting the dumpster in my trunk, all the time knowing there was no way it would fit even if I could have lifted it. Finally, a very kind man in a nearby house, offered to take the dumpster home in his truck.

Since that incident, I have started locking our gate. That also prevents him from getting into our neighbors’ mailboxes. I’m not sure what will happen next, but I am sure that when the need arises, there will be a kind stranger who will come to my aid and simply tell me, “It’s okay.”

I know that I’m not the only one going through this, but sometimes it feels like I am. Thinking back, I can’t recall ever seeing a wife in a situation like mine. I’m sure I have, but I just don’t remember. That makes me think that Vikki is right. I have nothing to feel bad about.

(I know there are birds in Home Depot, feasting on bags of birdseed they break open with their beaks. A whole family of owls live in the Lowes. I’m sure I’ve seen birds flying around in Costco too. I think I’ll wear binoculars on our next shopping trip.)