Lessons Learned: One man’s journey as an Alzheimer’s caregiver
- Published: 26 February 2016
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY PURSE? GIVE IT BACK TO ME… RIGHT NOW!”
This was my introduction to a new phase of Jeanne’s illness, filled with both paranoia and delusion. It was also her way of teaching me another very important lesson: Separate the illness from the person. I had to remember that this was her illness talking, not my wife. This was one of the harder lessons I had to learn.
Initially I was devastated. At no time in our many years of marriage was there any reason for either of us to not trust the other. Yet, for weeks to come I was accused to stealing more and more things from her, things that she hid, like a squirrel hiding its acorns, then forgetting where they were hidden.
She received small stipend checks from a couple of accounts she had. She insisted that Dorie take her to the bank to prevent me from stealing these monies. Months later, I discovered some of the envelopes throughout the house, under socks in a drawer, behind mirrors, inside pockets of clothes hung in the closet. And each time I was accused of stealing them from her.
Several weeks after the purse incident, something prompted me to look inside a clothes hamper we never used in the bedroom. Under a pile of clothes… was her purse! Jeanne was sitting on the bed. I reached down, retrieved the purse, and said happily, “Look what I found.” Rather than being grateful, she screamed at me, “Why are you hiding my things? Do I have to call the police?” Weeks later, this paranoia ended, but not soon enough.
Many times she would say something that was blatantly wrong, such as wanting to visit her parents who had died years earlier or wanting to get dressed so she could go to work. I realized a new lesson: Don’t correct, redirect. I began noticing how often I would correct her over small issues. This would only get her very upset and only fed my ego.
I would redirect the conversation. Rather than telling her that her parents had passed away, I would get her to reminisce with me about some happy memories of being their daughter. Old memories are the last to go, so she had many wonderful and vivid stories to share with me. Her smile glowed as she remembered all these happy moments.
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