Did I do the Right Thing?
When you truly love someone, are married or in a close partnership, there are few of us who want to admit we are unable anymore to be able to care for that other person? However, they like me may finally have to face the reality unless they find alternate living arrangements for the person needing care their own health will be compromised; which is not good for either one of them. It is one of the most difficult life decisions a lot of partners face; I know because it’s one I was forced to make.
I dreaded November 18TH 2014.That was the arranged day to place my 92 year old husband in a long term care home. I was fearful my elderly husband was suffering with Dementia, and several physical ailments, and would create a terrible fuss. It was fortunate I had the wonderful support of a close friend, also our adult grandson, who both assisted me with the move.
When we arrived at the facility our grandson took my husband gently by the arm as he guided him into the home. We were met in the foyer by a staff member who escorted us up to his assigned floor, and then into a semi-private room.
Harvey smiled as he looked around and appeared to like what he saw; he even said,”This is nice.” He was warmly greeted by more staff members as they busied getting him admitted, and he was affable and cheerful. Because of my earlier fears I was astonished, as well as relieved, how well all of it was going.
My grandson and I were invited to stay and have lunch in the dining hall with him. It was reassuring to see this was a brightly lit area with the tables pleasantly laid. The meal had been prepared in the homes’ own kitchen and it was good; enjoyed by all of us. After his noon meal we returned to his room, and as my husband wanted to take his usual afternoon nap we told him we loved him; would see him again soon, and left.
Yet as we drove away from the home that day a part of me remained there with him. The feeling of guilt that I had somehow let him down continued to be a personal burden during most of the 8 months he lived in the long term care home. Even though I really knew I could not manage him at home it was always still there.
However, since July 6th 2015 when my beloved husband passed peacefully away, with quiet dignity, and pain free, I’ve learned he had some quality time in that facility.
In many staff’s condolences since, I’ve read as well as heard of the effect my husband had on them. He had enjoyed a unique camaraderie I hadn’t been aware of, with other residents; some relatives of residents, and those special staff members.
Harvey had participated in recreational activities; among them the twice monthly happy hour which I know, having gone with him, was one of his favourite. While he was able, he’d done some walking in the halls with Dan, a male physiotherapist. As they walked they chatted, and Dan often told me how interesting he found my husband; especially hearing about all the things he had achieved in his life: His 26 years in the Royal Navy, the many countries he’d visited, and how he’d met and married me.
When Harvey talked about his life in Scotland it reminded some listeners of their own heritage. A resident at the home said how much she’d enjoyed his company at the dining table they shared; how she would miss him, he always made her laugh.
This was not how his life had been for the previous two years which he spent all and every day sitting, watching TV just doing nothing. It didn’t matter how much I tried to encourage him there was more to life he wouldn’t budge.
So how do I feel now? Firstly I’m sad for myself as having been married to him for nearly 63 years, his life and mine are united; he’ll always be a part of it. Still I’ve found much solace in learning about his experiences in the home. Just, knowing the people he came in contact with; how they got to share a part of the man I knew, before Dementia had changed him. This has also erased much of the guilt I’ve carried, all this time, because now I know, for both of us I did do the right thing. My prayer is these words of mine may bring comfort, and be beneficial, to anyone else going through a similar experience.
Love found a way
Guilt over something you’ve done isn’t the only emotion that tortures caregivers of a parent, partner, or spouse suffering with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. When they are unable recognize you that also is devastating; we desperately want them to know us. .
When this occurrence takes place most caregivers, as I did, don’t want to believe it. The sad truth is much harder to accept; that this disease is only going to get worse.
We were sitting together on the couch in our living room, and prior to this had been enjoying a tea break. Everything appeared to be fairly normal although Harvey had been having some trouble with his short term memory; I just assumed that it wasn’t anything unusual.
Then I noticed Harvey’s lined features looked drawn and anxious, as his blue eyes peered blankly into my face. “Where am I? Where’s Vicky; where’s my wife?”
I choked back my response, to tell him I was sitting beside him in our living room. However, I chose not too because this would probably cause him distress. My 92 year old beloved husband, suffering with Dementia was with me physically, but mentally his reality was far away. Again he repeated, “Where is my wife, where’s Vicky?”
My throat constricted as I took hold of his outstretched hand. “Who am I Harvey?”
He stared hard at me; “you’re my mum.” “If it’s who you want me to be Harvey, then it’s who I am.” The words hurt as I uttered them; I ached inside for my husband to really know who I was, but for the moment didn’t know how I could get him to recognize me. I was also afraid this was a downward spiral in the symptoms of Dementia; he might forget me altogether.
Harvey held my hand with a firm grip as tears filled his eyes; he cried. “What is wrong with me Mum am I going crazy?”
I shook my head. ”No you’re not going crazy Harvey. Everything you know is up there but you’ve forgotten some things; it’s a bit like a fog has clouded things out. So of course you get anxious but that’s a normal reaction; I’m sure I’d feel that way too.”
He shook his grey tousled head. “Well I’m just glad you’re here.” He then leant over and planted a kiss on the side of my cheek.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I turned and looked at him.
I gently squeezed his hand as I uttered the endearment we had said and written to each other so many times over our 62 years of marriage. As I spoke the Spanish words to him, “El rigua ti quernio mucho quapo,” (My darling I love you very much) Harvey smiled; his tears dried, and he replied, “all the time my love and forever.”
He then peered into my face, “where have you been Vicky I was getting worried.”
Our loving salutation was how I was able to keep my husband knowing who I was; he was always able to recall those familiar words. He knew I was the only other person, as well as himself, who knew them.
My beloved husband died July 6th 2015. For this small miracle in that heartbreaking situation I will be forever grateful. Our love for each other found a way for us to stay connected.
The idiom says, ’It is only when we walk a mile in another’s shoes do we fully understand.’ As
I know how painful this situation is with a loved one, and for anyone going through the same sad process I hope and pray what I’ve written here will give you comfort, and perhaps even a clue how to help with your own relationship. If it does happen hang onto it, it’s a priceless gift, and if you’re like me it’s one you will forever treasure.
Author: Victoria Stirling