Maybe just a bit scared! And that was a few years ago now. I used to worry that perhaps Dorothy was scared, too. But I don’t think she was. Even when, so tentatively, I first introduced her to being with others a bit like herself at a day centre, then finally when she moved to a care home, living apart from me. She was, in the main, always calm and at ease wherever she was.
But I was scared when that moment of final separation came. What if the staff are negligent (we’d all seen news items of mistreatment in past times), what if there are conflicts with other residents, what if, what if……? The doubts all but consumed me. Then how was I going to cope, to adjust to not having my sweetheart of decades living with me?
Looking back now, more than three years later and now a widower, I realize just how stressed I was for all the previous recent years leading up to and including her stay in full-time care. In those years there were times when almost every waking moment I was in a constant alert state, watching, waiting, listening, helping, cooking, cleaning, trying to converse, striving to be present, always trying to be loving and caring – no wonder I was always tired! Our children, all married with their own families and living away were always supportive and, with local council help, we managed quite well to stay together in the earlier stages of Dorothy’s Alzheimer’s. Neither of us had ever envisioned being separated, we expected to stay together, happy in our comfortable retirement village until at least one of us died. I didn’t see the signs…. And because, at first, we did cope.
Starting with some home help then later, showering help, then the odd week apart when Dorothy stayed in local respite care, and finally after some nasty falls, blackouts and brief hospital stays, it was time to accept that Dorothy needed more care than I could cope with. And so began the next phase of my “journey of care”.
That meant evaluation visits to nearby care homes, analyses of costs and our resources, seeking opinions from friends, reading brochures and articles, imagining different scenarios. Then the next process of options, of elimination and finally choice. Fortunately, I was able to draw on the advice of a friend who’d recently been in a similar position. But ultimately, I needed the advice and help of a specialist to take me through the financial and paperwork involved with the care home, the government departments, the bank, and the forward planning. It is a daunting task, especially when you are not exactly rich, you’re ageing, confused, tired and bewildered, just as I was!
But take heart, dear reader, with the right help it is possible to travel that journey of care even if it’s a long road and not without some rough patches. I can only strongly recommend you seek some expert help, as I did, to negotiate the landscape because I was scared when my wife’s condition was finally diagnosed and I did get lost here and there along the Alzheimer’s way!
Thank goodness I wasn’t personally alone or lost very often – I have my faith, I have my family, my friends and neighbours and had an excellent care home where Dorothy spent her final years. All that remains now is for me to accept this new phase of life, to be thankful and strengthened by the years past and to look forward to seeing our family grow. Somehow, I always seem busy with no time to be lonely or frightened; well, not often anyway!