Dan and I always planned to age well together. We knew that maintaining a healthy lifestyle was well-advised. So, we exercised, ate somewhat nutritiously, had jobs after retirement, and socialized.
When thinking about a healthy lifestyle, I rely on the six dimensions of wellness, but a bit differently. Based on other models, I think of a functional dimension that includes occupational, financial, and environmental components rather than just an occupational one. If the other five wellnesses are healthy - that one will be too.
Life was normal before Dan’s surgery. After his hospital stay, we exercised regularly. As his memory deteriorated, we continued walking, and he played pool at the Senior Center with our daughter. I fixed nutritious meals and followed the Mediterranean diet, although we ate too much sugar.
Socially, we got together with family and friends. We made jigsaw puzzles and watched television to stimulate his brain.
In the later stages of the disease, I was living his life for him: making decisions, telling him what to do and how to do them – even what to wear to bed and how to take a shower. Still, we had a healthy lifestyle in mind.
I read articles and books about caring for people with dementia and found many suggestions less helpful. Experts said:
Make lists and label things to help him remember.
That strategy worked for a while, but Dan soon forgot to look or ignored the list. He spent hours studying a bulletin board of favorite things and family members we created, though.
Many articles said, “don’t take it personally – it’s the disease.”
Intellectually that’s true. But it is not easy to do. The words hurt, and watching a loved one decline was devastating.
Many articles assume the person being cared for is cooperative.
Dan was not. He would make a doctor’s appointment and refuse to go. He would suggest hiring a financial planner and deny he ever said it. We argued regularly.
So, try the ideas you read about and see what works for you. As the disease progresses, strategies may need to be redesigned - creativity and resourcefulness are crucial.
Because Dan wandered during the night, I got little sleep. I was entertaining and checking on him constantly. An app on my phone helped monitored his whereabouts.
At the Memory Care Facility
While Dan was at the facility, he was well-fed, safe, and exercised lightly. I did my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but the challenge was daunting. Sleep remained elusive - so many worries. I was “wedded” to my phone - on call 24/7.
The pandemic played a significant role in his care; maybe my expectations were too high, but my needs were not met and it was a highly stressful time.
I am exercising, eating nutritiously, and getting together with friends and family. I take a free online Spanish class, work on art projects, and write articles for the newsletter. I function well, but there is room to improve in each dimension.
I would have learned more about the disease, taken better care of myself, and been more assertive.
Guideline 2 will discuss the need to foster a positive outlook - easier said than done - at least it was for me
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Hi Janice! I love reading your posts. They inspire me! I am learning Spanish too and was wondering if you could kindly share details of the free lessons you take! Thank you!! :)
I found this line so touching, "In the later stages of the disease, I was living his life for him." How well I remember getting my mom into the shower, washing her hair, standing by as she brushed her teeth, changing her clothes, clipping her nails. It was like tending to a child who didn't know how to do those things for herself. And, yes, the responsibility of being on call 24/7 -- sleeping with my ears open in case she needed me, those long months of jigsaw puzzles, drawing, word games, reading to her. Your articles are always empathetically right on point, Janice. I thank you for that.