Stu Ervay blogs about giving home care for his wife of 58 years during her final stage of Alzheimer’s (https://stuervay.com/2020/09/16/relationships/).
He’s kept himself in good health mentally and physically. She’s nearby pleasantly busying herself while he pursues his interests and converses with family and friends.
I envied him recently when I couldn’t help Lynne in her secure comfort apartment in her final stage of Alzheimer’s. A thoughtful caregiver had set up a video chat with Lynne while she pedaled on her stationary bike in a huggable fuzzy pink salmon sweater. She got hot quickly and tucked her chin inside her sweater to blow air down her chest to cool off. She gave up and left her apartment. I stared at an empty bike seat. I ached to hand her a t-shirt and guide her to the bathroom to change into it. Stu could have put his arm around his wife and eased her into a cooler shirt and diverted her to a new activity.
Yet Stu misses the female half of their “worldview that amalgamated the spiritual and rational … way that … needs real life context.” He posted this question as a married man caring for his wife: “What do you do to fill the emotional places in your brain or heart when your wife in no longer communicative or even aware of your presence?”
I feel that void as a widower even though I’m blessed to communicate with many women: care supervisors, trainers, counselors, activities directors, marketing representatives, caregivers, nurses. They get the advantage of being with her when she is cheerfully busying herself around her secure memory care floor.
And I talk with her girlfriends who tell me they have heartwarming chats with her about their shared memories. All of them encourage and comfort me like times I can’t be by her side and I can’t talk with my wife.
Those women help me, as they did Monday when I dealt with the first anniversary of Karen’s death. I prayed fitfully, skipped meditation, set lots of writing goals, delivered Lynne’ daily Starbuck’s iced coffee and Mountain Trail Mix. I bought a bouquet of tiny roses and put them in a vase on the kitchen counter like I spontaneously did with Karen. I shared a photo with my kids. After that I watched tennis in Hamburg and the men’s and women’s finals in Rome. My daughter Pam called for a long chat and recommended watching repeats of the Tour de France. I watched episode 20. My wife’s sister called. I grazed several meals. A realtor called to send me paperwork to sell an asset at full price. His voice sounded disappointed at my mechanical reaction. I watched Monday night football. At 7:00 pm I rejoined an Alzheimer’s YOA support group of men and women on Zoom after a two-years’ absence. They welcomed me back as I poured it all out. I watched comics on YouTube videos. I finally slept feeling I had coped well, despite getting nothing done on my to-do list.
More than I had admitted before yesterday, I share Stu’s yearning for his wife, “the other half of me for over half a century.” And I’m thankful, even though every Alzheimer’s caregiver’s journey is solo, there’s lots of support.