I was hell bent on the idea that no one could possibly understand the needs of my wife Linda as she submerged deeper into the abyss of her Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Because no one could love her as much as I do, it followed that no one could care for her the way I could. Besides, wasn’t it me that she was reaching out for from behind her disappearing eyes? Wasn’t it my name she was calling? Wasn’t it my shoulder she would cry on when she was bewildered by the slowly burning cancellation of her own identity? So I toiled on, bearing the burden of a rapidly growing list of responsibilities in taking care of her, treating them like some kind of penance for the how unjust I perceived this illness to be. The rapidity with which her cognitive and language abilities declined, hastened the fulfillment that is the promise of this disease. Most and then ultimately close to all, of her Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) had slipped beyond her capacity, so each new week brought an increase in my list of responsibilities in caring for her, with the dangerous and undesirable collateral result of precipitous drops in my health. My physical and emotional health began to dramatically suffer, as I tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my life, under a façade that was cracking faster than mud in a drought.
Paradoxically, I had ample offers from friends and family to help out in taking care of her, and naturally it was suggested by almost everyone, that I seek the expertise of professional home care. What a stubborn man I must have been in retrospect, to turn down the dozens of life rafts that offered me safe haven from my travails, while I chose to tread water knowing that I was drowning.
I have read that one of the single most difficult personal thresholds a caregiver will cross is when their emotional attrition rate becomes so acute, that they are left with no option, but to ask for help. At the urging of those close to me, particularly Joko, I finally relented.
With a very heavy heart spiced with more than a fair share of guilt, I began interviewing professional aides until I found someone who I felt would not just do a great job, but would treat Linda with the kindness and compassion that I was so afraid she would suffer without. It was, for me at least, an experiment at first, and I will not sugar coat it by saying it was always easy. But, without a shred of doubt, it was the appropriate and right thing to do, and clearly, I should have done it sooner.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 62% of caregivers will die before their loved ones because of the stresses involved. Asking for help is the most immediate and practical remedy to such an unacceptable statistic. It is near impossible to offer oneself up a caregiver 24/7 without suffering the consequences of physical and emotional fatigue and breakdown, which of course makes us even less effective as caregivers.
There are friends and family, who can step in, if only for a few hours to offer a much needed respite. And there are services, agencies and grants available to make regular home care a part of the process of taking care of your loved one while you take care of yourself.
I’m sitting quietly by myself as I write this, feeling content and relaxed, knowing that Linda is at home, being cared for compassionately by a wonderful woman who knows how to do her job expertly. When I am finished with this, I will go home and take Linda (and our dog Wally), for a long walk along the beautiful trails near our home. I will be relaxed and rested and my decision to ask for help will have been worth its weight in gold.
About The Author
I have been a chiropractor since 1981 in Ridgefield, Connecticut. My passion is caring for my patients, educating people on the principles of health, reading, writing, going to the movies, and traveling, on my Harley whenever possible.