Ask Miriam – June 2021

Published On: June 1st, 2021Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

I am a “young” 80-year-old, and my wife is 81. I have been caring for her for the last two years since she was diagnosed with dementia. Before she developed symptoms, we loved retirement. I golfed twice a week, we were always going to plays – she especially adored musicals – and although the grandkids live a couple hours away, we attended all their school events and games. Now I just feel hopeless. My wife doesn’t want to do anything except sit in front of the TV. Getting her to shower and dress can take hours in the morning. She just yells at me when I try to help. I’m not much of a cook, so we are ordering out for most meals. How can I get my life back?

—Lost Life

Dear Lost,

I’m so sorry that you are going through such a difficult time right now. When someone has been diagnosed with dementia, those who love them may experience a broad range of losses during the course of the disease. These can include the loss of the person’s skills, loss of independence, loss of the ability to communicate, changes in personality, and a whole host of life changes.

Take some time to acknowledge how life is different now and how much you miss the way it used to be. Write a list of all those things that you grieve for or talk about them with a good friend or therapist. A support group for caregivers can also be helpful in coping with feelings of loss.

While life will never be the same, there can still be room for joy and love in new, simpler ways that you two can spend time together. Perhaps instead of going to a play or a movie, you can listen at home to the soundtrack from her favorite show. Sometimes people with dementia watch a lot of television because they have lost the ability to plan and carry out actions. You can invite her to participate in some easy activities such as listening to you read aloud, putting together a puzzle with not too many pieces, or playing Go Fish — the rules don’t matter!

When she is resistant or gets angry at you, take a break and approach her again a little later. And try not to take it personally, hard though that may be. Remember that the disease is impacting her brain and the way she relates to you.

It is also very important that you continue to do the things that bring you pleasure. Look into getting some help in the home or ask her friends to come visit, even just for a few hours a week, so that you can attend one of your grandchildren’s ball games or play a round of golf with a friend. You can even try something you’ve not done before — YouTube videos provide tutorials on a rich array of endeavors such as baking, painting, tai chi, and much more. Help in the home might also allow you to delegate more difficult tasks, such as showering, and that can relieve some of your stress.

For more information about how to cope with the life changes that happen when your life’s partner has been diagnosed with dementia, contact our Helpline at 844-435-7259, or go to our website at www.alzheimersla.org. Questions for Miriam can be sent to askmiriam@alzla.org.

Best,
Miriam

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