Coronavirus restrictions mean that I basically only venture outside my home to visit Dorothy in her care home and to buy some supermarket items, otherwise I haven’t been to many other places since the coronavirus ‘shut-in’ started. I go to church, have a meal sometimes with my daughter and help one or two other residents with computer problems at the retirement village where I live, manage my laundering and the usual household chores (such as the dreaded cooking!). All of that somehow keeps me busy; I am never bored, there is always something to do – I sometimes get annoyed with myself when I don’t even have time to do a newspaper crossword puzzle!
My wife, Dorothy, on the other hand, has no chores and is never busy. It is such a strange thing, this Alzheimer’s disease which has robbed my dear wife of the ability to think of anything other than the ‘moment’. She has no need for preplanning, no pressing jobs, no concerns about food or clothing or, well, anything! Add to that her inability to express herself or to read more than a few words and even those, regardless of their context, evoke little emotion or response. It is so hard for me to imagine, indeed understand, just what is in her mind, and I guess that must be so for so many other partners like me. But, on some occasions, the magic of recognition of who I am breaks through, and the look of joy on her face melts my heart and her smile is enough to ‘make my day!’ and, I hope, hers as well.
Even as recently as six months ago we could flip through a newspaper or magazine and she would remain focussed and seemed to ‘see’ the content of the pictures, even recognise and repeat some words. These days Dorothy more often will lower her head and close her eyes, not showing much interest in pictures or the written stories. She sometimes enjoying using pencils to colour a picture so I persist with colouring pictures (provided by the home) with her because sometimes she still ‘connects’ with it. Watching TV, or listening to me read, just doesn’t often ‘click’ at present.
Walking is still a thrill for both of us, though! Even when I find her dozing in a chair she will normally rouse and accept my cajoling, fairly readily and sometime enthusiastically, to “come walking with me”. Then we set off, anywhere, inside or out, even on a repetitive circuit, and hand-in-hand we can walk for ages. Although I must add Dorothy is walking more slowly, and it is a challenge to encourage her to lift her head and stand more upright; she is becoming more stooped and tends to shuffle unless I gently persuade her to stand up straighter and pace more quickly. I fear her stability will decrease, and with it comes the increased danger of falls as she progresses through this Alzheimer’s journey.
Only now, eighteen months after Dorothy went into care, have I learned, albeit slowly, to embrace my new, different, unchosen lifestyle. After all, life was meant to be easy, wasn’t it?