From this point forward I’ll continue relating other scenarios of husbands taking care of wives afflicted with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Interspersed with those stories will be my thoughts on how negative situations might have been handled differently, or why what the husband did is a good response to a challenge.
I am not a counselor or psychologist. But I have worked closely with those professions. And, in addition to my own experience and knowledge of what other men are like, I can offer a few insights that might be helpful.
Every scenario is fictitious, with fictitious names and places. But the stories are based on real life. If you have a story to share with me, and wish to have it included as a scenario, I will edit and expand on it as a fictional narrative. It will also be modified for clarity. That draft will be shared with you before it is posted, and you will be asked to give written permission for me to post it as approved.
If these blog posts are ultimately published as a book, which is my intention, scenarios will be written in the same way. IF you wish, scenario contributors will be thanked in the book’s preface with no reference to which story is involved.
In the remainder of this post I will add what I call scenario snippets, or one paragraph descriptors used to be prompts. Those prompts are meant to help you recognize your own story. They may not fit your scenario exactly, and that is fine. All of us are different.
Scenario snippets in the previous posts are Real Men are Not Whiners, God is Ever Present in Our Lives, Marriage is a Necessary Burden, and Institutionalization is Unacceptable.
Here are a few more.
Too Young, Too Soon, Too Burdensome: My wife is only 53. We have been married over 30 years. Our three children are now adults. They’ve given us two grandchildren so far. Our two married daughters live in a nearby town. Our youngest, a son, is still living at home attending graduate school at the local university. I’m 55 and still work as an engineer in a local manufacturing plant. My wife works part time as a secretary at a local law office. About a year ago my wife’s employer called to ask if I had noticed anything different about my wife’s behavior. A little, I guess. She gets more confused than usual and seems to be somewhat more depressed. The employer said she has seen the same thing. It is getting to be a problem at work. She suggested I seek a medical opinion. We visited our GP, who referred us to a neurologist. Tests were conducted. They eliminated treatable conditions associated with things like hormonal disorders, an infection, or the aftereffects of a mild stroke. It was early onset dementia, which further tests indicated was probably Alzheimer’s Syndrome. Devastating news. There is no way to predict how rapidly the situation will worsen. But plans must be made by the family. Her job. My job. Finances. Travel modifications. Eventual in-home care. Possible future institutionalization. Long term care insurance. Now I can’t stand watching all the TV ads showing happy seniors living out their “golden years” hand in hand in some retirement wonderland. What am I going to do now?
PTSD Multiplied: I’m a veteran. Over 50 years ago I spent two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Marines. Now I’m a little over 70 and semi-retired from various kinds of employment, mostly in construction. While I was only slightly wounded in Vietnam, the experiences in terrible firefights and their aftermath left me more shaken than I first thought. Despair. Anger. Suicidal tendencies. Substance abuse. Broken relationships. Even homelessness for a short time. I went through two marriages that produced three children, but they ended in divorce. My now adult kids want nothing to do with me. Six years ago, I met a wonderful woman who accepted me and all my faults. We married. She has endured much in her relationship with me: fights with the VA, hospitalizations, treatment centers, nightmares, bizarre behaviors, financial problems. I love and depend on her. I try to show my gratitude whenever I can. She is my everything. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We try to take care of each other and have a few friends who help all they can. They have told us our future will likely involve becoming wards of the state. I’m pretty sure that means we’ll be separated. I’d rather die.
Follow the Money: Because my wife and I both have what insurance companies call pre-existing conditions, purchasing any kind of life or long-term care insurance has been either impossible or a frustrating challenge. It mystifies us as to why some nations find ways to circumvent the problem, at least to some degree. As responsible and hard-working citizens, neither of us want to live in a cradle-to-grave socialist country. We accept the economic philosophy of free enterprise. On the other hand, we dread the future. I’m still two years away from qualifying for Medicare. My wife does not work outside the home because of a disability. At age 63, I could start collecting minimal Social Security payments even while keeping my job as an HVAC repair technician. But waiting two or even seven years will increase monthly payments substantially. Our doctor says my wife is showing early signs of dementia, and family history suggests the good possibility of Alzheimer’s. We study the situation and find little reason for hope. With help from family members as my wife’s condition worsens, I can forestall retirement two years. Medicare, Social Security and any part time work I do will allow me to take care of my wife at home. However, if anything happens to me and my wife requires institutional care, the only option we have available is Medicaid. And its income and estate rules for my family and me are severe. One of our daughters has begun exploring a movement called Dementia Friendly America and similar initiatives. Something like that, along with the work of the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP and others may not help people of modest means such as our family, but it helps to think about the possibilities.
Reflect on these fictitious scenarios and contact me with your own stories.
Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.
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