Lessons Learned: One man’s journey as an Alzheimer’s caregiver
- Published: 25 February 2016
I realized that knowledge was power. I wish this illness came with a rule book, but it doesn’t. I immersed myself in reading whatever I could, gathering a library of books and videos, searching the internet, looking for anything I could find. I tried, hit or miss, anything that might work to better serve my wife and educate myself.
I developed something I later learned was a memory book. It was in a red cover with the title page, “Jeanne’s Very Important Papers.”
It began with a childhood picture of Jeanne, with a paragraph including her birthdate and parents’ names, followed by another paragraph that read, “She has dedicated her life as a mother, wife, nurse, and a community servant who has touched many people’s lives along the way. After a life of serving others, we find it an honor to serve her.”
Next was a timeline with dates and items beginning with her divorce from her first husband, our marriage, some various medical issues that arose, and our son’s birth through college graduation; it also included the date of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Other pages that followed included her divorce decree from Bill and his obituary, our wedding vows and pictures, and a picture of our marriage license. It had a picture of our home in Cleveland and several pictures of our home in Colrain. I took pictures of several rooms of our home while sitting where Jeanne would sit, so she would see it from her perspective. It had individual pages with pictures of her four children and one of our son with paragraphs including their names and a little blurb about each of them. There were individual pages of her Personal Care Attendant (PCA; I’ll talk about her later), her trainer, her sister, our dog, and more. The final page read, “It is never the end… Life is a journey, the best is yet to come.”
Whenever she seemed disoriented or began to get agitated, I would point to the book and ask her what that was. She looked through the book dozens of times, and each time she saw it, it was for the first time.
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