I know I did. Here’s a ‘short’ synopsis of our Alzheimer’s journey:
- John was initially diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. That’s an euphemism for he couldn’t remember much, be it where he put the keys or that we had a dinner date with good friends. We still had a really good life on the whole. These minor glitches didn’t get in the way of too much. But he was worried enough about it that he made arrangements to see a Cognitive Neurologist (I’ve learned all sorts of new medical terminology along the way).
- By the following year his memory had deteriorated and out regular doctor suggested that he might go to see a Neurologist who specializes in memory issues (read Alzheimer’s and all sorts of other Dementias). John was rather pleased when he learned that this doctor also ran Clinical Trials for potential new medications. His comment tells a lot about who he is/was, “If the medication doesn’t help me, at least it will let the researchers know they’ll need to look in another direction.”
- No, the Trials did not help John’s condition. But one of them did give him a special PET scan at no cost. That test showed that his brain was already filled with Amyloid Protein Plaques. These, in my terms, sort of gunk up the works. The neurons are not able to move the signals appropriately. So he started to use the wrong words or not being able to find the words at all. His language centers are directly impacted by these plaques.
- Another year or two went by. The slowness of his deterioration prevented me from really seeing how much he had lost. He was still able to enjoy working in the garden. I stayed in the air conditioned apartment and knit while he pulled the weeds. Until one day I looked up and he was no longer in the garden. Then I went on the quest to find him. How scary is that!?! Luckily one of our neighbors spotted him and led him home.
- Shortly after that the incontinence began. It was time for him to move into Assisted Living. Being separated was difficult. But we both recognized that it was time, or rather that it was actually late. Luckily he settled in and was quite comfortable.
- We’ve been managing well enough or the last two years. Then Covid kept us apart for nearly 6 months. After he entered the Hospice Program I am able to be with him. Our adult children also visited in the last two weeks. Such a change since the Holidays!
- Just this week it was time for him to make the next transition. His wonderful Nursing Staff gathered around me. They gently let me know that he requires much more care. It was time for him to move to the Skilled Nursing Care Unit. Now I have breakfast with him each day. I stay for an hour or so until he falls asleep. I’m so very grateful for all the wonderful nursing staff and the aides who are so kind. I know the care he is receiving is great so I worry less.
I learned three things about his disease:
- I didn’t cause it!
- I can’t change it!
- and I can’t cure it!
What I can do is accept that he has this awful disease, and love him through it all.
So how has less stress happened for me?
I had more difficulty with the transitions than he has. Eventually one of my friends suggested that I try rediscovering my art. She helped me rearrange the apartment, turning it into an artist studio. I started taking online art classes.
Gradually my passion for painting began to lift my spirits. My apartment now has paintings on nearly every available area of wall. I’m surrounded by color and beauty. I have little opportunity for worry.
Art saved me from a deep depression. One of my favorite hashtags in #artastherapy. For me it has certainly functioned that way. It’s amazing what bright colors will do.
Art may also be helpful for raising your spirits.