July 15, 2021 Update:
I wrote this article about two-and-a-half years ago, but last month I truly and forever lost my marital relationship. My husband, Aldo, had a sudden physical decline and in one week died gently, but very unexpectedly, at home. I have posted a lot about experiencing his death and then feeling grief and relief, while also feeling his past healthy loving spirit watching over me. My story has been reposted recently, and I wanted to do this update so newer members reading my story are aware of Aldo’s recent death. The community at myALZteam, just one of the many MyHealthTeams groups, provides a very important online support system for dementia caregivers and, increasingly, for those living with early dementia.
December 31, 2019 Original Article:
I am a 75-year-old retired mental health registered nurse. About four years ago I noticed that my then 79-year-old hubby Aldo was having mild short term memory issues and I was concerned about mild cognitive impairment (MCI). We discussed it with our family physician and mini mental health assessments were added to hubby’s regular checkups, where mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was confirmed.
Shortly after Aldo developed a gallbladder duct obstruction and almost died from the resulting sepsis. While in hospital awaiting urgent surgery he became confused during the night. The Seniors Health Team at the hospital confirmed the original MCI diagnosis and recommended he not drive until he recovered from the upcoming serious surgery and had a full mental health assessment for early dementia. Three months later, hubby failed the driving portion of the testing and paperwork to remove his driver's license was completed. I became the only driver and we sold his truck. This, along with that MCI diagnosis confirming my fears, was the first impact of dementia on our lives.
We chose not to use Aricept (donepezil) because of potential side effects and hubby was referred to a geriatric clinic for testing of cognitive, functional, and activities of daily living abilities every six to nine months. We are a blended family and our four adult children, as well as the older grandchildren, along with close friends and neighbors were made aware of Aldo’s diagnosis. At this point his cognitive ability had probably been declining for at least four years. He was becoming more forgetful — he could no longer handle taking his medication and I had to help him with garden machinery he was forgetting how to use. I have learned to run all the gardening and snow removal machines although hubby can help somewhat with my supervision. This was the next impact of dementia on our lives.
Dementia has impacted my community volunteer activities, social friendships, and our relationship as marital partners. I ceased several volunteer interests and I have found that while some friends have much less contact with us, there are others who stepped up support. My son’s mother-in-law tries to be supportive but just doesn’t understand dementia. Our adult children are supportive and are there when we need them.
My marriage is transitioning to "parent with a dependent" faster than I expected. Aldo needs more supervision now for simple cooking, using the phone and television remote, and doing chores like cat care, gardening, and simple shopping than I had expected at this early to moderate Alzheimer’s stage. Along with little to no short-term memory and repetitive questions, his problem-solving abilities and judgment are poor and he is sleeping more.
We do have kiss and cuddle dates about every two weeks, but as I feel more and more like a parent, this may become difficult. Loneliness and worrying are more common feelings than they were even a year ago because I’m losing my partner. Although we’ve been lucky that Aldo’s Alzheimer’s decline has been fairly slow, it is the impact of dementia on our marital relationship that is the saddest loss so far.
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