Tag Archives: Moving with Alzheimer’s

The Moving Process for An Alzheimer’s Spouse

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I know I have not been posting as often as usual, but this moving thing is sucking up my life. And giving me new insights into my life with Ralph.

First there are the practical mechanics. And the financial mechanics. And the physical mechanics.

Then there are the emotional mechanics, which are not mechanics at all, but underlying realities.

So about the mechanics—whatever problems our marriage had, and there were plenty—I was spoiled for over forty years when it came to mechanics. Practically speaking, Ralph was the one who made decisions about what we needed as homeowners; he dealt with contractors and service people because he understood their language and knew how to do the jobs himself while I didn’t. In fact, physically, I was an inept moron. Ralph did not trust me to do much more than change a light bulb. I have to admit here that I didn’t try very hard to win his trust, preferring to let him take charge. Financially I was not inept, but although I did balance checkbooks and do much of the bookkeeping, Ralph did the heavy lifting when it came to making financial decisions like dealing with our accountant on long term planning, deciding what price to take on selling or buying real estate, choosing insurance plans.

Now all practical matters are in my hands. For better worse, Ralph trusts me completely to make decisions. He doesn’t do physical chores, although he is happy to carry boxes I’ve filled to the car, a fact I am extremely grateful for especially since he never complains the way he might have in the past. He has no interest in dealing with contractors or service people or even lawyers and accountants. He asks how things are going but doesn’t want to hear if there are problems. And I have talked here before about his lack of interest in financial issues.

None of this is new but the stakes are higher, the decision-making and activity more intense. I am making choices for his well being but also my own. I am elated at moments when I see how much I am accomplishing on my own and I am fearful and resentful at how much I am doing alone without someone to share doubts and fears with.

So to be honest, I am proud how competent I have proven in navigating the business end of things (although since the farm is only under contract at this point, I don’t want to jinx myself there). There was a whirlwind of the kind of negotiations and quick responses Ralph always relished; while he’d ask my opinions as a kind of devil’s advocate, he was the decider. Now I make the decisions and so far, they have been working well. I also seem to do fine working with contractors and service people. I admit my ignorance but I ask questions. So far no one has cheated me; if anything they’ve gone out of their way to be helpful. Not only am I proud of myself. Ralph is proud of me too.

Of course he has no clue that there have been snags and problems along the way. He doesn’t want to take on the devil’s advocate role he used to hand me. And I have learned I should not discuss my own doubts with him.  Whenever I do slip up and talk openly out of the need to think things through out loud, his anxiety sends him into the loop of repetitious thinking and questions that drive me crazy. Better to say all is going well, even when it maybe isn’t.

The result is that I don’t have a partner with whom to share my own anxieties while I am managing his anxieties too. I am pretty much on my own. But I know plenty of folks who are living alone and manage on their own just fine. It’s only a big deal for me now because I had different expectations. And frankly I am getting use to my new normal. While I often still feel scared or lonely, it is not all bad. I have grown in ways I might not have expected at this point in my life.

Also it’s a relief that I now live with someone who won’t mind if the wallpaper I splurged on for the powder room is more flowery and girlish than Ralph would ever have allowed. But then again, what if it’s hideous once it’s up and I have no one else to blame but myself.

Ralph–A Change of Perspective

Ralph and I just spent almost a week in New Orleans together babysitting while my daughter and son-in-law were away. With the change of scenery came a change of perspective.

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Here on the farm, life plods along. We get up in the morning and drink our first cups of coffee together and then we go about our days.  I have various deadlines, meetings, and activities at home and around town that keep me active so I’m not necessarily paying attention to how Ralph is filling or not filling his time. Of course I check with him regularly to make sure he is following his life list and of course he calls me repeatedly—whether over the phone or in person from the bedroom to the kitchen or over the phone from the bedroom to the kitchen—to ask whatever question has lodged in his brain for the day. And yes I am increasingly involved in getting him to do small activities (Did you take a shower? is one of my favorite nags and is about to go on the life list) and driving him to doctor appointments. But I don’t yet have to think about him minute to minute.

In New Orleans, we were much more in each other’s faces. While BabyRalph was in pre-pre-school, Ralph and I were alone in a house with an open floor plan where neither of us had space to escape to. Ralph wasn’t tucked away in an office or the bedroom. Ralph actually found the stairs to the bedroom too steep to climb more than absolutely necessary, a fact I have to note as I look for a house for us. He was either on the living room couch “reading” (mostly with his eyes closed) or on the back porch smoking. I was sitting in the kitchen trying to concentrate at my computer as he asked me repeated questions when he wasn’t sleeping.

And then there was the smoking. At home, although it drives me crazy that I can’t sit on my front porch anymore, I can almost ignore his smoking. In New Orleans I was responsible for a two-year-old who cried to be with his Bop. If I said, “Bop is outside,” BabyRalph said, “I want to go outside with Bop.” Of course I couldn’t let him outside with Ralph, or to play in his own backyard where the smoke from Ralph’s cigarettes hung paralyzed in the damp heat.  And each time Ralph came back inside, he had to, or at least had to be nagged to de-cigaretize (i.e., wash his hands, etc.,) before he could be around BabyRalph.

And he did love to be around BabyRalph. In the late afternoon for a few hours, Ralph and BabyRalph were inseparable. While they played, and that is what they did-play—I was free to clean up the house and get dinner ready. Ralph was fully engaged with BabyRalph in a way his own children never experienced him.  Of course, we are all more playful and relaxed with our grandchildren than we were with our kids. But there is definitely added-value in Ralph and BabyRalph’s case. Ralph was energized by BabyRalph because they share sense of presentness. BabyRalph has very little past to remember, while Ralph has very little memory of a lot of past.  And neither thinks about the future.

But I do. And what I have realized is that the biggest reason to move to New Orleans is not that we need to downsize or get and give family support but that Ralph needs to interact regularly with BabyRalph, oops now ToddlerRalph, as much as possible because those interactions bring him to life in a way nothing else does.