This Inattentive Alzheimer’s Spouse Gets Caught

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So hours after bragging about how beautifully I’ve handled Ralph lately, I naturally got my comeuppance.

Shortly after I posted my little self-congratulation, Ralph announced that he could not find his phone. Misplacing a phone is as common as morning coffee for most of us these days, why the find-your-phone app is essential as that morning coffee. But Ralph’s basic flip phone, which he has never been willing (able) to switch from, doesn’t have that app. So there was no find-your-phone button we could use. Instead we (I) dropped everything I had on my schedule to begin the search.

“Have you checked your car?” he asked every few minutes, and I dutifully looked there again. He had not been in my car for days, and I had seen him on the phone the night before but anxiety pushed him into one of his memory loops. He was sure he had placed the phone in my passenger door pocket although he had not been in my car since a visit to the dentist the week before.

As we searched I thought about how important Ralph’s cell phone has become as a safety net. Thanks to the cell phone Ralph and I each have a degree of independence we might not have. I can check on him regularly. And he can push one button and talk to me wherever either of us is. But my comfort level depending on the phone assumes I can trust he has one nearby and will pick up. What if he’d lost the phone while I was out of town or even at the grocery store? The idea of him being on his own and unreachable for days or hours, or even a few minutes frankly, is terrifying. (It might have be time to get to a land-line again). 

We started looking for the phone midmorning. At three in the afternoon I was at Verizon while Ralph waited at the farmstressed out. Fortunately he was  only semi-unreachable since our tractor man, soon to be farm caretaker, was nearby with his phone.

As it turns out, Ralph’s 3-G phone will be obsolete and unusable within a matter of months so getting a new phone was in the cards anyway. I considered switching him to some kind of relatively easy-to-use smart phone, but common sense—and the salesperson—prevailed. Ralph, who had enough difficulty operating his lost flip phone,  would resist and resent a change. The good news is that the updated flip phone I bought looks exactly like his old one, but unlike the old phone it will be connected to my phone in such a way that I’ll be able to locate it and by extension Ralph in an emergency. So the small snafua turned into a win-win scenario-except for the stress and anxiety that took a definite toll on both of us. The lesson I learned: I need to keep track of Ralph’s phone and make sure he has it on him whenever he leaves the house (although while I sit here writing,  I realize I didn’t check on him and his phone before I came up here).

Two days later an even smaller snafu handed me a second reminder about the importance of vigilance. We were invited by some friends for dinner. As we headed out the door, I went to the refrigerator for the bottle of Spanish white wine I planned take along to go with the paella being served.  Evidently Ralph had noticed the wine, which I’d purchased the previous afternoon, and partaken. I was annoyed and let him know it —not my finest moment.

After all, it  was my own fault. I wasn’t paying adequate attention. I should have known that he would see the bottle in the fridge and not remember he wasn’t to drink it. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before, but my mind was elsewhere and I let things slide.

As soon as I yelled at him, he apologized profusely and I felt terrible. I shut up and quickly changed the subject.(And really how trivial and stupid of me was it to be embarrassed about showing up with an opened bottle of wine, as if anyone cared.)  Three days later, he has no memory of the unpleasant moment but I do. 

I can’t help reacting as a wife when Ralph complicates my life. But these petty problems remind me Ralph is not just my husband but my responsibility.  And just because he seems content doesn’t mean I can lower my guard.

ps.The lost phone remains unfound although I imagine it will turn up eventually. I have marked the new one in bright colors to differentiate just in case.

9 thoughts on “This Inattentive Alzheimer’s Spouse Gets Caught

  1. Sorry, but I did laugh as I pictured Ralph finding the wine and enjoying a glass – and your face when you opened the fridge. Not really funny, I know. And I can feel your embarrassment at arriving at your friends with an opened bottle. Of course they wouldn’t mind, only you do. Hope you find the phone. And when you feel a bit down about things you can read over your last post to cheer yourself up. In fact, maybe you should copy your positive posts into a special folder for such occasions. I wish I’d thought of that when staying with Dad.

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    1. I am always pleased when I can get you to laugh. Amazingly, the old phone has yet to turn up even after I did laundry and went through forgotten pockets. But we have move on. You are right about keeping copies of the positive posts nearby though I am back to upbeat today just reading your note.

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  2. Thank you for this. You’ve just described the very situation I went through with my husband’s flip phone a couple of months ago. He’s in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s and until I read your post, I wasn’t sure whether I should continue to keep his phone service active or not. I replaced his flip phone with one of my older Android phones and have direct dial numbers on the front page. He has started to not carry the phone at all because he has trouble a) answering it, and b) using it to call me. The last few times I’ve called his cell, the call has gone directly to voice mail. I finally asked him if he wore his phone at all anymore and he said, no. I didn’t pursue it.

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    1. Are you going back to the flip phone? I find it scary not to be able to get in touch with Ralph but I don’t want to be chained by his side. More honestly, I refuse to be chained to his side because being with him nonstop would drive me nuts. So for me the phone is essential. Of course there are still times he forgets to carry it or charge it (and I can forget as well), but there is a level of security it gives me. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. Duly noted… my husband lost HIS flip phone ages ago so I gave him my older Android. He never remembers to charge it at night and when he does decide to wear it in a holder on his belt, he can’t remember how to use it to call me (much less anyone else). When I try to reach him, the call goes directly to voicemail. When we’re in stores is when I miss being able to find him. We have Tracfones and I’ve considered cancelling his phone but just can’t bring myself to do that. And now here you are, coping with the exact same situation (my husband has Alzheimer’s and is in the beginning stage). Charging and caring for his phone is now added to my must-do list. Thanks for posting this… I was truly shocked to find your article in my inbox, matching my own situation precisely.

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    1. So interesting that so many of us have flip phone issues. The phone issue is real but largely slides under the radar (or it slid under my radar anyhow). Glad my experience was useful. In your situation I’d probably keep the phone for now too. Of course it was easy for me to say I was going to be more vigilant. Not sure I have been following through as well as I know I should….Thanks for writing.

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