Dear Family and Friends,
My new friend, Barb Webb, shared the following with me a couple of days ago. She had told me before she wrote it that her husband, Al, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three and a half years ago, was told he could no longer drive. The news had thrown them both into a new phase of dealing with Alzheimer’s.
I waited to read Barb’s words until I knew I could be in a private place to really focus. I’m glad I waited, because I couldn’t stop the tears that started just a few sentences in.
There is still hope in Barb’s heart, but things are changing, and she feels the need to be honest with those around her about what Alzheimer’s is really like. I am grateful that she shared this with me and is allowing me to share it with you. Please keep her and Al in your prayers.
I am really feeling a little vulnerable right now because I am planning on stepping out of my comfort zone. I am going to speak of some feelings that I share only with Al & my therapist.
I am a glass is half full kind of a person. And I normally come across that way with a pretty upbeat attitude. I have attacked my husband, Al’s, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in the same manner. I have given talks about Alzheimer’s and I have written a couple of articles and journaled on a blog and a website, but what I have always talked about were the ways Al & I are moving through this insidious disease with humor, acceptance and hopefully, grace.
But those aren’t the feelings I have all the time.
And this afternoon I realized that it isn’t really fair to everyone I am around to portray myself in that way without also sharing the frustrations and problems both Al & I face daily. I am afraid my sometimes Pollyanna attitude may be more of a hinderance than a help to others. I don’t want others to ask themselves what is wrong that they can’t handle the daily problems Alzheimer’s presents in a more accepting way, like Barbara appears to do.. And I certainly don’t want anyone to feel less adequate than anyone else. We are all in this together and unfortunately, each day presents a new set of challenges and tests us all to our limits.
So, here goes…. Last week Al & I went to a new neurologist, Dr. Jicha, at UK in Lexington. We both liked him very much until he told Al he could not drive anymore. Of course, Al’s opinion of him changed immediately. And ever since then, he has been mad at Dr Jicha, me, the world, even God. I mean intensely mad, like I have never seen him before. He does not want to get past the anger and try to move into acceptance. And he is quite depressed.
I don’t blame him & I acknowledge that he has the right to feel as he does. But for the first time in the past 3 ½ years, I don’t know how to handle things and there is nothing I can do to help him. I understand the anger. I understand the feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment at having to be driven everywhere. I also understand that the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. And cars and trucks are a big part of their toybox. But there is nothing I can do to help him along this journey past the anger and on to acceptance. So I watch him rail at God, say he isn’t going back to Dr. Jicha again and tell me it is my fault that he can’t drive. And all the while, I see someone acting unlike the man I love and have been married to for over 30 years. He has always been the patient and understanding person in this relationship. The funny part is that I am not the most patient person in the world (I am a Type A, after all!) but this past week I have not lost my temper or gotten angry back at Al. Instead my heart is aching for him and what he is going through.
Ever since Al’s diagnosis I have looked at this as both of us hurting, both of us trying to maneuver along daily and both of us on the same page. But after this week I realize that isn’t true. There is no way I can hurt in the same way as Al is hurting, no way I can feel the depth of his anger or know the pain of trying to remember something and failing miserably time after time. I also realize that up until now I really haven’t been feeling like a caregiver in our relationship because he still is able to do most everything for himself and make many decisions. But with this new development I now am actually feeling more like a caregiver and it scares the heck out of me.
Will I be able to help Al through this stage of anger and on to acceptance?
Will I be able to keep him safe?
Will I be able to continue to make him see how much I love him and still need him?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I am going to continue to try to keep that glass half full attitude, continue to share our stories and most of all, continue to rely on God’s strength and grace!!