Stay or Go? Which Choice is Right?

Last night a friend (we’ll call her “Heather”) and her husband “Alan” came over for dinner. We had a lovely evening with good food and good conversation. I found myself thinking back to Still Alice, the movie I saw last weekend about a woman trying to hang onto as much of herself as she could while early onset dementia crept into her life. Alice was able to keep her condition a secret from her family for awhile. My Heather’s husband seemed pretty normal at dinner last night. If I hadn’t known she had to call the police and put out a Silver Alert on him a couple of months ago, ┬áif I didn’t know she can’t leave him home alone, I might not notice his dementia.

The night Alan disappeared with the car many people posted on Heather’s Facebook page that they prayed he’d be found safe and unharmed. Having known a lot of people with dementia and having seen what their family members go through, I wondered if that was the prayer Heather wanted. My prayer was that Heather and Alan receive what they need. I left it up to the power of the universe to determine their needs.

Caregiving is hard. One thing the caregiver has to do is recognize that the person they’re caring for isn’t necessarily the same one they fell in love with and married. People and life have changed. Can the person who needs care still fulfill the caregiver’s needs? Alan was fun loving, easy going, and an all around great guy when Heather met him. Now he’s that same guy except when he’s not. When he has to go to adult day care, he’s an angry man, contrary and difficult. Heather can’t pick him up and carry him out to the car like she can a toddler. She has to work at gaining his cooperation and never knows from one day to the next what this will require. It’s exhausting.

Dementia can last for around 20 years. Can Heather? Does she want to? The marriage vows are “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” Perfectly healthy people get divorced. Is it wrong for caregivers under stress to consider divorce, and perhaps to follow through with that option? I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not living in those peoples’ shoes, not facing the daily struggle. Heather doesn’t know either. I won’t tell you what happens in Still Alice.

The time to consider your options is now. Do it before you need to. Investigate care facilities, private hire aides that would provide care in your home, family arrangements. Let people know how you want to be cared for. What’s your choice?

Caregiving: Joy & Challenge

Caregiving: Joy & Challenge

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