Promises, promises….

“Do you promise to love and cherish her/him, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her/him, for so long as you both shall live?” I did!

Now, sixty something years later, there is (metaphorically) a hole in my heart which, three months after my wife’s death, is now healing. That’s because of the love and support of our wonderful family, friends, and neighbours and also because of my Christian faith which helps me to know Dorothy is in a better place.

It must be so hard for people who don’t have those sorts of foundations, those with no children or local family, perhaps only a few friends, and no faith in a loving God. Coronavirus has added another dimension to the grief of losing a partner and has now exacerbated the loneliness of men and women who have lost a life-long partner for whatever reason. I am still constantly aware of my wife’s absence, but I know she would not want me to be morose and sad about it. I am adjusting to being alone rather more quickly than I expected because, for many more than the two years Dorothy was in care, I was already ‘alone’ and had time to adjust to that reality. I can hardly envisage how much harder it must be for those of my readers whose partner with advanced Alzheimer’s was still living with them at home until the end of their life.

In the few years before Dorothy went into care without me, our ordinary day to day living had become increasingly difficult in every imaginable way. The unremitting constancy of care, as you may know, is exceedingly tiring, indeed debilitating. In our case, that stress manifested itself on both of us, and remaining together under one roof would ultimately have been, not just stressful, but downright disastrous. The final decision, after the family agreement to move Dorothy into care, was difficult and confronting for me, but I did recognise it was essential for both of us and our health into the future. Fortunately, Dorothy seemed to accept her new abode with her former grace and tranquillity.

The process and the journey of finding the right placement and how it could be financed was always going to be a long road, fraught with complexities and riddled with more choices than you ever envisaged. Believe me, you need to start and think about the need long before it becomes an otherwise unplanned event! Once the decision to go down the care road had been accepted by myself and my family it was soon apparent that I needed professional help. A friend who’d travelled that path referred me to an excellent specialised service (ask me and I’ll tell you who) and most of the hard preparatory work was done by them. Even after choosing a Care Home, you still need to negotiate the entry (and other) costs and consider a raft of options. Yes, get help!

The need to get assistance doesn’t just apply to accommodation, costs and when and where. If you’re like me, you’ll need more than just financial help; you are probably going to need some ‘mental’ and maybe physical, even medical, and spiritual help. The latter is easy for me, I’m familiar with prayer and belong to a supportive church group. It’s the psychological aspect that I needed a boost with! Having a good relationship with a caring medical doctor was also a tremendous help to me and I now also belong to a small on-line group who meet regularly, it’s professionally curated by a psychologist (it’s free, too!). I am happy to share the details.

Although the promises I undertook at our wedding, all those years ago, don’t need to apply any more, let me tell you, I don’t easily break promises and I know Dorothy would want me to live on as fully as I am able. But I couldn’t do it without help. So, if you are struggling to cope with life, separated from your partner with Alzheimer’s like I was, go ask for help! Drop me a line, too if you’d like some ideas.