Losing Another Friend With Dementia

Over the course of the past few years, I have connected with several people whose spouses have had dementia. One of those was my former dentist whose wife was in the last stages of the illness when we first got together. He had in-home care for her round the clock. About a year after our first contact, he died of cancer. She died earlier this year following a year in a memory unit of a continuing care community.

Another man was a neighbor whose wife was between the middle and later stages. He cared for her at home until she experienced serious problems with anger. Then he had to put her in a memory care unit of a local facility. She died over a year ago.

One other person was someone with whom I had served as a volunteer in three different not-for-profit organizations. After his retirement, he and his wife moved to the coast of South Carolina. His wife had also been an acquaintance of Kate’s. Her dementia had already been diagnosed at the time of their move. I last saw them together in August 2016. She seemed to be getting along pretty well although I knew from her husband that she had had a variety of problems, both health and anger. A month after I saw them, she started a downward spiral that ended in early January. He was able to keep her at home for all but a period of a month or six weeks that occurred about a year before she died. He had help from his daughter and an agency that provided in-home care during the day.

Yesterday morning, I received a text from Nancy Hardwick telling me that Charlie, a former roommate at TCU, had passed away early that morning. Charlie had enjoyed attending an adult day care center for over a year. He died peacefully at home. I don’t believe Nancy had any help until hospice was brought in about a week ago.

That leaves me with only two other acquaintances in my shoes. One is a former member of my Rotary club and a neighbor, We periodically exchange email messages but haven’t gotten together because he can’t get away from the house. His wife won’t accept a caregiver, and he doesn’t want to leave her alone. I need to give him a call. He might like to have a little contact. I sense that he is substantially more isolated than I am.

The other is a member of our church. Kate and I see him and his wife at one of the restaurants we frequent regularly. I have talked with him two or three times on the phone. For a long time, he took his wife to work with him. He owns a large company and is retired but goes into the office daily. He has brought in a sitter for his wife within the last six months or so. I have the impression that he doesn’t feel the need or desire to establish any kind of regular communication. His wife is a little further along that Kate. The interesting thing to me is that our situations are very similar. His experience with her is very much like that of Kate’s and mine.

The deaths of these four people sensitized me to the fact that we are one day going to face this same thing. Even though Kate lives with little or no memory, I still feel her passing is years away. I read some caregiver’s forum messages that welcome death. At this point, we still enjoy life. I wouldn’t want it to end now. There is simply too much to live for.