Increasing Dependence

I suspect becoming dependent on others is something most of us want to avoid. I find this is true among most of the seniors I know. Yet there is a certain inevitability if we live long enough. Alzheimer’s has been the big factor in Kate’s dependence on me. She got along reasonably well until she stopped driving. Since that occurred following an accident, she never fought losing her car. She was bothered, however, by her dependence on me to get her from place to place. Even though she was getting out, I think she felt tethered to the house. That may account for why she still doesn’t like to stay around the house for extended periods of time. She likes to be out, and I have enabled her to do that.

Of course, there are some things we are glad to let others do for us. Kate has never shown any concern about my taking care of meals or the laundry. Neither has she been bothered my role in giving instructions to our housekeeper. One surprising area in which she has not asserted her independence is shopping for clothes. I can’t remember the last time she expressed an interest or need to buy new clothes. At first, I would initiate a shopping trip. She found it confusing to look through so many different options. Sometimes she bought things that she never wore. Gradually, I started shopping without her. Now I buy everything online. It is easier for me. The only problem I’ve had is getting the right fit. It seems we have settled into the right sizes. That is working well.

I think that retaining independence is even more important when it comes to the many everyday tasks in which we are involved. That is especially true for those of a personal nature like getting dressed, bathing, and using the toilet. Kate has often asserted her independence in these areas. For a long time she resisted taking my hand when going up or down stairs or curbs or getting in and out of the car. Now she is inconsistent. Sometimes she welcomes my hand. Often she asks for it. I am accustomed to her saying, “Hand” as we approach a curb.

Right now we are going through a transition to her becoming substantially more dependent. Until the past six months or so, she has resisted my involvement with her clothes. By that I mean selecting or helping her select what she wears. We are now coming close to my picking out everything she wears. She seems to appreciate this. I think it’s a little like shopping. There are so many options that she gets confused.

The latest change that has occurred in the past week or ten days is her asking for and/or accepting my help with dressing. It is only in the past few days that she has asked my help fastening her bra. That looks like something I will be doing a lot of from here on out. For weeks or months, she has asked my help in determining which is the front and which is the back of her pants. Now she is asking me to help putting them on. The same is true for her tops, and yesterday, she gave me her socks to put on for her.

She has always been a little slow to wake up in the morning. That is even truer now. She often seems very confused. This morning I checked on her and discovered that she was awake but still in bed. I asked if she wanted to rest a little more or get up. She wanted to get up. She looked like she didn’t know what to do. I suggested she take her shower. She asked where. I told her in our bathroom. Again, she asked where. I pointed to it. Then she asked me to help her up. Once she was up she took my hand and wanted me to walk her to the bathroom. When we got to the bathroom, she said, “What now?” I told her to take off her gown, and I would start the shower.

At moments like these, she is almost completely dependent, but once she got in the shower, she got along all right. I should say until she got out. Then she wanted my help getting dressed. She still has some ambivalence about my help. Sometimes she will say, “I don’t really need your help, but I feel more comfortable (with it).” She often says the same thing when taking my hand going up and down curbs. As you can tell, we are entering a new stage that is different for both of us. We are both adapting.