Caregiver Stress

I am only minutes away from finishing Jan’s Story. I have a number of reactions. The biggest problem I’ve had is the title. I still think Petersen is telling his story more than Jan’s. It is clear that he has suffered a tremendous amount of stress that I haven’t come close to having. Listening to the book again is causing me to reflect on my own adjustment to Kate. One thing I struggled with is the last chapter or two when he talks about establishing a relationship with another woman. This would seem to be a difficult thing for me to consider. I simply can’t imagine it’s happening. I do understand that each person’s situation is different; so I’m trying not to be too critical of him.

As to my own adjustment, let me say that I clearly am making continual adjustments to Kate’s condition and specific things that she does. I do not, however, feel that I am under tremendous stress (underscore “tremendous”). I also experience the pain at signs that our relationship is changing for the negative. One of those is that I have to be very careful what I say and do. She is quite sensitive and feels hurt or angry or both when she feels I am criticizing her in any way. Another thing is the change in our conversations. This is minor at this point, but I can see a more serious change is on the way. I tuned into that problem in Petersen’s book. There are limited things we can talk about, and we can’t get very deep into anything. It is simply too frustrating. I emphasize again that this is not a big issue yet. I say that because Kate is much less talkative than I. She feels comfortable with periods of silence. For me, when there is silence, I feel a need to fill it with chatter about something. For her this can actually be annoying. Now I am more comfortable with silence because I know that this really is good for her. The things that she talks about most involve the yard and her plants and the house. We also talk about previous trips and the good times we have had.

Another minor problem for me is something that relates to our differences in communication. I would be more prone to acknowledge publicly my Alzheimer’s. She still wants to keep it secret. I do understand why she feels this way. She is not one to lead a cause; so she doesn’t want to do anything like President Reagan or the UT women’s basketball coach. The big issue for her is the way she is likely to be treated if people knew. As it is right now people treat her normally. That might be very difficult for them to do if they were aware of her condition.

One reason I am keeping this journal is that I might want to be public sometime in the future when it would not matter to Kate. I can easily see my creating a blog or speaking to support groups or volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association in some way. In fact, if my health still permits, I believe I am very likely to make a commitment to work in some volunteer capacity to assist either caregivers or patients or both.

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