It is 8:10 on Monday morning, the 10th of September. I have been up three hours, read two newspapers, had two cups of coffee, two slices of Rye toast with strawberry preserves and a lemon tart, put in a load of clothes to wash, taken my exercise walk of 2.9 miles, transferred the clothes to the dryer and am now writing this blog, drinking some water and contemplating the day ahead.
Less than three weeks ago Mary, my wife of 53 years, went to live in an Assisted Living facility where there are good people to give her the medical and physical attention she requires on a 24/7 basis. Since last November when she had her first stroke I have been her primary caregiver. The last ten months have taken a toll on her and me, despite the paid help who came into our home five days a week. Moving Mary into Assisted Living was not an easy decision but it was in her and my best interests and one based on medical recommendations.
A woman I have never met, Jo Horne, has written a nine-point "Caregiver's Bill of Rights" and number one is: "To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability to take better care of my relative." I never thought of this before my wife got sick. After all our life income was structured so she would be comfortable if anything happened to me. That is if she was up and about and could fend for herself and not have to live with the effects of two strokes and Alzheimer's problems.
The days, weeks, months, and years ahead, will be different from any of life's earlier experiences for Mary and I and our family. These are unchartered waters for us. Thousands of others have dealt with similar problems. We can learn from their experiences and the literature in the field - but these are no guarantee for successfully coping.
"There are no perfect solutions for Alzheimer's problems" and today's decision may look doubtful tomorrow. "Solving problems is easy. It is living with the solutions to those problems that are tough." (Duke Family Support Group, Duke University)