Alzheimer’s and The Downsizing Decision

Driving to the recycling center the other night, I was listening to NPR when a story came on about a man with Early Alzheimer’s. Naturally my ears perked up.

Journalist Greg O’Brien has been chronicling his advancing Alzheimer’s in a series of reports called Inside Alzheimer’s. For those facing their own or a loved one’s Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, this series from NPR is worth checking out. A range of subjects are covered from telling the kids to hallucinations, to caregiver anger. Not all the topics may be relevant to your situation but you’re bound to find one that connects.

For me it was definitely the piece the other night. Greg and his wife have decided together that it is time to sell their home on Cape Cod and downsize before his condition deteriorates. Greg talked about packing up with the help of his kids and about the pleasure of finding mementos that vividly brought back to life the family’s past.

As Greg talked, I knew Ralph was sitting at home on the porch listening to NPR and I worried how the story would affect him, wondered if he would compare himself to Greg. Because frankly I was comparing them—the same way I compare Ralph to all of my on-line friends who write such articulate blogs about the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

You are all so strong, so wise, so likable in describing your struggles.

I admit, I can’t help what I know is an unfair thought process: wishing Ralph could be more like you and push himself to live life to the fullest. Of course, I know that I am being unfair. It is as if I am asking Ralph to get over this cognitive glitch, as if he it’s his choice, so he can start remembering and I don’t have to be so responsible.

Greg’s involvement in deciding to sell his home was really hit me because I really don’t know how I am going to get Ralph to leave our farm. And the time is approaching. I spent the morning looking at real estate. I am thinking of moving us, at least part-time to New Orleans where my daughter and her new family have relocated so we can share childcare with Ralphcare.

Ralph knows this, sort of. Sometimes he can analyze the pluses and minuses with helpful perception. Sometimes he thinks spending time down there is a great idea. Sometimes he looks at me as if this new idea, which he is sure I’m presenting for the first time, is nuts.

This possible move of ours is the biggest  financial, emotional and logistical decision I have had to make since Ralph was diagnosed with MCI/Early Alzheimer’s. It affects both of us.

[I would love to hear how those of you in similar situations have decided when a change in housing is necessary–whether it’s been a matter of downsizing, moving into special housing, or even living apart–and how you handled the decision-making.]

Personally, this is the kind of decision I used to let Ralph make. I would offer my advice, would influence his thinking; but for all my feminist posturing, I preferred the more passive role—that way when things went wrong I didn’t have to take the blame.

Well those days are over. Women taking responsibility for our lives is great in theory, and probably in practice–I will explore the definite advantages of feeling empowered in another post soon. Right now I can’t remember what they are. All I am feeling is that I have no choice but to take on the power of decision-making for the two of us, and after a lifetime of back-and-forth compromise (mostly my compromise that I often resented), holding that power can be scary and lonely.

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2 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s and The Downsizing Decision

  1. It is a difficult situation, being put in the position of being The Decider when what you’d really like is to have a Pros and Cons discussion with the person for whom you are making the decision. I am certain that it is a very lonely feeling. I hope you are able to find someone with whom to bounce off your thoughts/concerns so that when you make decisions, you feel they have been supported.

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