Last week, I spoke to a group at our church about living with Alzheimer’s. During the Q&A, someone mentioned the stress experienced by caregivers and asked how I was dealing with that. As I said to him, “That’s a good question and one that I’ve tried to address since Kate’s diagnosis.” My thoughts about care for the caregiver is rooted in watching my father as he cared for my mother who had dementia. Except for the things I did to support him, the only help he sought out was a daycare center for my mother 4 hours every Wednesday so that he could go to Kiwanis and the grocery store. He was always in good spirits, but the stress took its toll on him. I vowed not to let that happen to me. I can’t say that I have found a way to eliminate stress, but I have been able to minimize it.
Since our move in April, life has become much easier for me. Supervising only three caregivers is much better than the 6-9 we had before the move. That has meant more routine in our lives. As expected, the convenience of meals on the premises has been a major benefit. Little things like being able to stroll down the hallway to a café where Kate can get an ice cream or a milk shake adds pleasant moments of relaxation. On top of that, I am enjoying the social interaction with other residents and staff that occurs throughout the day.
I also get away from the grounds several times a week. I attend Rotary every Monday and have lunch at two of my favorite restaurants on Wednesday and Sunday. Of course, there are also trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.
This past Wednesday was an especially nice day. I had lunch at Carla’s where I had an arugula and goat cheese salad with cherry tomatoes and pecans accompanied by a side of smoked brisket (the best I have had outside of Texas). The meals in our retirement community are quite good, but they don’t compare to the ones I get at Carla’s or Andriana’s.
Apart from the meal, I had conversations with two of the staff I have known for quite a while. One is a server who is moving to Nashville. Her boyfriend just graduated and is moving there to look for a job. She is going with him to further her education to become a physical therapist. She was excited about the move, and I was excited for her. It reminded me of the early days of our own marriage.
The conversation was with the shift manager. He is from Romania and has been in the US about five years. He is married to a Puerto Rican who is in the Air Force. Earlier this year, he became a US citizen, and was very excited about that. Now, he is excited by the news that his wife’s next assignment is in Naples, Italy. That will put them within an hour by plane to his family’s home. That will make it much easier and less expensive for his parents to visit him and his wife and daughter. When his wife finishes this assignment, she will have only three years until she can retire. Upon retirement, they plan to return to the US. I found both of these conversations to be uplifting and was happy for them.
Wednesday is also “Spa Day” for Kate. The caregiver bathes her, shampoos her hair, applies lotion to her body, and does her nails. When I got back to the apartment, I was pleased to see Kate with eyes closed relaxing in her recliner while the caregiver filed her nails. Until two years ago, I had been taking her to have her nails done once or twice a month. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she became somewhat frightened, and I stopped. This particular caregiver has been doing her nails since she came to us in December or January. It does my heart good to see Kate enjoy herself so much.
To top it off, we made our trip down the hall for ice cream. I didn’t need anything more to keep my spirits up.