10. You

Alzheimer’s and the Husband is not just about me, or even “we.” I don’t consider myself symbolic of men who care for wives with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, or any debilitating diseases and disorders.

Caregiving stories are everywhere, and many defy classification within the society of which I am a part. My story does not include poverty, collapsing societies, intercultural warfare, or other disruptions that impinge on every decision. Every action.

That knowledge humbles me. It makes my story seem almost trivial.

I’m also impressed with the contributions of women as mothers, daughters, wives, and caring members of an extended family or community. I’ve met many of you. At my wife’s memory care home. In my neighborhood, church, and even online.

For almost 60 years I worked with you as schoolteachers, students, and team members on campus and in the consultant field. I’ve met you at national associations and as a supporter of my wife’s efforts to improve the quality of women’s lives everywhere. 

Your stories are filled with dedication and selfless service. Now I see you as nurses and caregivers working diligently to care for those afflicted with the current virus.

Because I’m new to this kind of writing and communication with an audience, I contacted a writing coach. A woman who has a better sense of what I should say, how I should say it, and who my audience is likely to be. And she also cares for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

She tells me that my writing should connect with readers in some way. My work with AARP and other groups gives me clues. But I’m not sure that’s enough.

You, the readers, could have more important stories than my own. That knowledge tells me I should listen to those stories and do what I can to polish them a little. Then use this medium to inform and inspire others to do something similar.

Who are you, the readers of this blog? Why have you spent time reading it?

Are you a husband in a situation like mine?  Better? Worse? Much worse?

Or are you a woman acquainted with a caregiving man: a daughter, friend, mother? Someone else?

————–

At the end of this blog post are a few classifications that might resonate. The fictitious scenarios might be familiar to you because of present or past experiences. My next blog post will include more of them. If something triggers a memory or thought as you read them, let me know.

Then I’ll select as many as possible to expand on in separate posts.

Real Men are Not Whiners:  Life has its ups and downs. But I’m emotionally strong. I don’t complain or seek help from others. I can take care of myself. And I can certainly take care of my wife. If health and financial concerns arise during our life together, I’ll solve them myself. I’ve been a good provider and problem solver. And I’ve always been there when my wife needed help or guidance. Thanks for your offer of assistance, but no thanks. I can take care of my wife’s decline myself.

Success in Life is Multifaceted: I’ve been successful in business and my family has benefited from it. Achieving success in anything is mostly a matter of staying informed, acting when the situation calls for it, and building support networks. While I admit that dementia in my wife is a different kind of challenge, a cursory review of available services reveals many organizations I can engage. I’ve learned that my wife’s dementia is irreversible and will eventually result in her death. Our adult children are busy with their own lives and reside in another state, but I hope they understand the situation with their mother and visit her occasionally. In the meantime, I plan to stay active with my business pursuits and golf game.  

God Is Ever Present in Our Lives: My wife and I have been active churchgoers our entire married life. We are devout Christians and believe in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe unerringly that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. Scripture tells us that life on earth was never meant to be easy, but that we’ll achieve everlasting life in Heaven. That knowledge helps me endure my wife’s Alzheimer’s, because I know she will eventually die from its effects. Sometimes I worry that her excruciatingly long decline to inevitable death is my fault, possibly the payment we both must make for some sin I’ve committed. Sometimes I cry when no one else is looking. And I constantly seek forgiveness.

Marriage is a Necessary Burden: I once read that marriage was historically considered either an economic or political necessity. Peasants married to produce children who could help with farm work, or otherwise contribute to a family’s income. Ruling classes married to improve a nation state’s allegiances and trade alliances and produce heirs to the family dynasty. Even in today’s America, marriage (or co-habitation) is seen by some as a practical way of life. For many reasons. In some ways that kind of thing was the foundation of my marriage. We lived decades that way. But now I’m confused because my wife is dying of Alzheimer’s. Each day she fades away a little more. And that makes me realize that practicality has evolved into something else. What for years was nothing more than a convenient arrangement for me (and us), is now turning into something quite different in my psyche and emotions. And it scares me. What will I do without her?

Institutionalization is Unacceptable: Everyone knows that growing old in your own home and neighborhood is better than being placed in some institution. A blissful old age is touted as being one in which you die in your own bed in the home you love, surrounded by members of your family. My wife and I talked about that often. That was her wish. She never made me promise to help her achieve that goal, but it was certainly implied. Often. Even after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s I diligently tried to keep my wife home. And for years I did. Until she became a danger to both herself and me. Until she wandered down the street in the middle of the night. Until she forgot how to get dressed, take a shower, or use the toilet. Until I was coming apart emotionally and physically because of stress. Signing the contract for her to be admitted to a memory care facility was like signing a death warrant for me. And I cried every time she called and said, “I’m ready to come home now.”      

Reflect on these fictitious scenarios and I’ll offer more in the next blog post. Then I hope we can talk about them.  

Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.

©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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